Chicago Police Must Pay $8.5M for Shooting Teen in the Back
The city of Chicago must pay a grieving mother $8.5 million for the actions of a police officer, John Fitzgerald, who shot her 18-year-old son in the back and allegedly planted a gun at the scene after the shooting.
The death of Aaron Harrison, who was shot while running from Chicago police, set off protests after it happened in 2007.
He was shot after a two-car convoy of police, known as a “wolf pack,” saw a group of young men. One officer saw a man “holding or adjusting his right side” and one of the police cars swung around and came up on the curb, then Harrison began running.
Fitzgerald claimed the teen pointed a gun across his body during the chase. But according to James Montgomery, an attorney for Harrison’s mother, Annie Johnson, five eyewitnesses testified that Harrison wasn’t carrying a gun and didn’t point one at an officer, and that there was no gun near his body immediately after the shooting.
Yet in contradiction to eyewitness testimony, a 9mm weapon turned up after the shooting, Montgomery said.
“Then after the handcuffing — magically the gun appears,” Montgomery said. “Evidence pointed to a planted weapon on the ground.”
The jury’s $8.5 million award adds to the $54 million the city has spent this year to settle police misconduct lawsuits.
One juror said after the verdict that the chase could not have happened the way police described it, because Harrison was shot in the back but police claimed he was turned around pointing the gun at them.
The verdict could be seen as a rebuke to the Independent Police Review Authority which concluded in 2009 that the shooting was justified, Montgomery said.
This was the second time the lawsuit went to trial; the first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. The second jury took only three hours to decide the case.
Johnson said she hoped the verdict for her son’s death would help other families of police shooting victims not to give up.
“There’s been a lot of times I wanted to give up, but I never give up on my kids,” she said.