A West Side man shot during a 2011 traffic stop as a teen by a Chicago police officer has been awarded $1.2 million by a Cook County jury.
Attorneys for Derquann Wilson, now 22, alleged at trial that Officer Sajit Walter violated departmental rules by opening fire on a vehicle fleeing a minor traffic stop, then conspired with other officers on the now-disbanded Mobile Strike Force to cover it up after Wilson nearly died.
“Derquann was truly a victim … we’re very grateful the jury recognized Officer Walter’s reckless conduct,” Wilson’s attorney Craig Sandberg said in a statement after Thursday’s verdict against the city. The verdict came on the heels of a second trial in the case; the first in February had ended in a mistrial after jurors could not reach a verdict....
....Walter, the officer, has testified that he only opened fire after the 1997 Chevy Malibu that Wilson was a front-seat passenger in came barreling at him. Walter also testified that he kept shooting after seeing a small gun being pointed at him by a back-seat passenger. A total of five rounds were fired at the car, but no bullet holes were found on the front of the car.
No gun was ever recovered, but police found a small novelty lighter shaped like a tiny handgun, according to trial testimony. The car crashed into a fence a few blocks away.
Wilson, then a 15-year-old Westinghouse College Prep student, testified during the first trial at the downtown Daley Center courthouse that he and three friends were returning home from visiting a friend’s girlfriend about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 4, 2011, when two marked squad cars forced them to stop at Roosevelt Road and Kolin Avenue. Walter emerged from one squad car with his gun drawn while the police vehicle was still moving, Wilson testified.
The teen was sitting inside the Chevy with his hands up when part of his left middle finger was shot off without warning seconds after Walter tapped on his window with his service weapon, Wilson testified.
A friend driving the Chevy panicked after the shooting began and sped away, Wilson said, and he felt another bullet tear through his back under his right shoulder, puncturing a lung. Another friend in the back seat screamed after being shot through his leg, Wilson testified.
“I said I couldn’t breathe, please stop the car — it was killing me,” Wilson testified last week. After the car crashed and the driver and another passenger ran away, Wilson fell face-down on the ground outside “hoping this is not my last day on earth.”
But Walter testified that he only removed his Glock 22 when he heard the Malibu’s engine rev. He said he identified himself as a police officer and ordered the driver to stop. Instead the car sped towards him and Walter said he fired off one or two rounds as he backpedaled to avoid being struck. He then saw the back seat passenger holding a gun pointed at him and kept firing....
The Mobile Strike Force, a roving specialized unit working in high-crime districts, was formed by then-Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis after a series of scandals rocked the Special Operations Section. But the unit was disbanded by Garry McCarthy over concerns that its aggressive style was alienating minority communities.
Wilson spent 16 days recovering from his injuries at Mt. Sinai Hospital, wracking up more than $290,000 in medical bills and undergoing at least six surgeries, according to trial testimony....