A man who was shot as a teenager by a Chicago Police officer was awarded $1,241,907 Thursday by a Cook County jury.
Derquann Wilson was 15 when he was shot by Officer Sajit Walter in 2011.
....It’s the second time the case has been tried. The first trial, in February, ended in a hung jury when one holdout juror voted against Wilson receiving a cash award from the city.
Wilson was riding in the front passenger seat of a Chevrolet Malibu, and two marked police cars — one in front and one in back — pulled the vehicle over in the North Lawndale neighborhood.
Moments after approaching the car, Walter fired five shots into the vehicle, striking Wilson in the front passenger seat in his hand and upper back. Wilson nearly died and lost a finger. The passenger sitting behind Wilson, Jermaine Henry, also was hit.
The driver of the car tried to flee the scene, hitting the cop car parked behind, and clipping the one in front.
Walter has said he fired because he was in fear of his life as the car came at him as the driver tried to flee. He said he also fired because he saw a rear-seat passenger point what he believed was a gun at him.
The car crashed a few blocks away. No gun was ever found. But a small novelty gun-shaped cigarette lighter was found on Henry.
Wilson’s attorney, Craig Sandberg, argued that the gun-shaped lighter was never brandished, but its existence was the basis for a fabricated story to help explain a shooting that never should have happened.
Sandberg and his co-counsel, Keenan Saulter, also questioned why there was no damage to the front of the car if Walter first opened fired as it was coming at him.
“Officer Walter lied to protect himself,” Saulter told jurors during closing arguments Thursday. “This is his career. He told you there were two shots to the front of the car. Where are they?”
Saulter also claimed that Walter broke a police regulation by shooting at a fleeing vehicle that didn’t pose a danger to him. As evidence, he pointed to a bullet that pierced a tail-light and came to rest in the trunk.
City attorneys pointed to the fact that Henry pleaded guilty as a juvenile to pointing the gun-shaped lighter.
But Henry told jurors that he admitted to something he didn’t do in order to gain his freedom at the time. He said it would be absurd for someone to point a fake gun at a cop while surrounded by police officers.
“Derquann was truly a victim of the wrongful conduct of Chicago police office Sajit Walter, resulting in significant and life-threatening injuries to him when he was 15 years old,” Sandberg said. “We’re very grateful that the jury recognized Officer Walter’s reckless conduct.”