By: Sarah Schulte, ABC7 Chicago: December 7th, 2009
The relatives of a Chicago teenager with autism have filed a lawsuit against Chicago police and the city’s independent police review board.
They say officers beat the 16-year-old when he did not cooperate with them while attempting to question the boy about a case.
Police thought Oscar Guzman may have been a suspect they were searching for. The 16-year-old’s family says the special needs teen was confused when two officers tried to ask him questions. The Guzman family says Oscar did nothing wrong when he was hit on the head. Monday’s lawsuit is a civil rights suit filed in federal court.
Oscar Guzman’s physical wound has healed, but the 16-year-old’s family says his mental wounds stay with him. Back in April, Guzman’s head was split open after a Chicago police officer allegedly beat the teen with autism on the head with a metal baton. Monday, the Guzman family filed a lawsuit.
“Up to this day he still has night terrors. He still feels edgy a little edgy around this department that’s supposed to serve and protect. And how can I tell him they’ll protect you if they are the ones who injured you?” said Nubia Guzman, Oscar Guzman’s sister.
Police say Guzman may have been a victim of mistaken identity. On the evening of April 22, Guzman was outside his family’s restaurant, 3257 W. 26th St., when two officers approached him.
Police say Guzman matched the description on an offender they were looking for. Guzman’s family says the 16-year-old ran inside the restaurant when he was unable to answer the officers questions. The police chased Guzman inside.
“His parents were explaining to the police, he’s a child with disabilities, he’s a special needs kid, he didn’t do anything, leave him alone. The police pushed past the family into the back area of the restaurant and with a baton struck him in the head, split open his head causing need for staples in his head,” said Jon Loevy, Guzman’s attorney.
Besides suing the City of Chicago and the police officers involved, the Guzman family is taking the unprecedented step of suing the agency that investigates complaints against the police department. The Guzmans are accusing the Independent Police Review Authority of stalling the investigation and concealing the identities of the officers involved.
“He’s a child with disabilities, and wasn’t breaking the law. He ends up with his head split open from a baton. How many months does it take to investigate that?” said Loevy.
In a written statement, the Independent Police Review Authority says “it will not sacrifice the thoroughness of an investigation in order to meet a timeline.” The agency says, before an investigation is closed, it must gather the evidence and interview all the witnesses. Members of the Guzman family say they have been interviewed twice.
The City of Chicago says it has not received the lawsuit yet.