A Cook County jury awarded $350,000 in damages Tuesday in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the mother of a black teen fatally shot by a Chicago police officer during a chase on the Fourth of July nearly four years ago.
In ruling the shooting of Christian Green unjustified, jurors found that Officer Robert Gonzalez did not “reasonably believe” that his life was in danger when he unloaded 11 shots at the 17-year-old from his police SUV, striking him once in the left side of his back.
Seated at the defense table in a dark gray suit, Gonzalez showed no reaction as the verdict was read in Judge Elizabeth Budzinski’s cramped Daley Center courtroom. After the jury filed out, Christian’s mother, Patricia Green, stood a few feet away from the officer, sobbing softly into a tissue.
“I think that the outcome could have been greater,” Patricia Green told reporters outside the courtroom, referring to the relatively low payout. “But the money can’t take the place of my son. … I can never get him back.”
The 10-member jury deliberated for about 16 hours over three days before reaching its verdict — the first time Gonzalez, a veteran tactical officer, has been found liable for wrongdoing in his 19-year career.
But Gonzalez’s legal troubles aren’t over. He’s facing two pending federal lawsuits — including one filed Monday as the jury in Green’s shooting was still deliberating — alleging he helped frame drug suspects as part of a corrupt band of officers working under disgraced former Sgt. Ronald Watts.
Gonzalez is also slated to give sworn testimony in two other police-shooting lawsuits where his partner fired the fatal shots. As in Green’s shooting, both of those cases — the 2012 shooting of 16-year-old Rickey Childs and the 2014 death of Ronald Johnson III, 25 — involved a black suspect allegedly armed with a gun who was shot in the back while fleeing officers.
Gonzalez, who remains a tactical officer in the Wentworth District, left the courthouse Tuesday without comment. A Law Department spokesman said in an emailed statement that the city was “disappointed” in the jury’s verdict and considering legal options.
Outside court, attorney Victor Henderson, who represents the Green family, said jurors told him after the verdict that the officers’ accounts of the shooting were “contrived, too polished and coordinated,” echoing long-standing issues with the way police shooting probes were handled. Continue Reading
Article Org: chicagotribune.com