Another day, another police brutality and excessive force lawsuit, right? According to official reports and the Chicago Tribune, the shooting on July 6 in Cicero was simply a case of a cop shooting a gangster that pulled out his piece first. The article didn’t even name the deceased.
According to the lawsuit filed last week, it was far more complicated than that. The complaint alleges that the deceased, Cesar Munive, was riding his bike when the police rolled up at high speed. One of the officers, Officer Dominick Schullo, pulled out his weapon and fired a bullet into Munive’s back. The victim was then handcuffed and denied medical treatment during his last moments. He was unarmed.
The complaint also alleges an extensive cover-up attempt: A weapon was found a block away, then another gun was planted on the victim. Witnesses have allegedly been intimidated in person, via the phone, and at the victim’s funeral. According to Berwyn Life, a police chopper even circled above the funeral, perhaps as a message of intimidation and display of power.
As for the Cicero Police Department, according to the complaint, they’ve stood by and watched as similar conduct has repeatedly occurred. The complaint argues that the police department should be liable, as the lack of repercussions creates a culture of permissiveness towards excessive force and police brutality.
The law underlying the claims is of the standard Section 1983 variety that we see so often in police brutality suits. Section 1983 is a federal law that allows victims to recover when their constitutional rights are violated “under the color of law”, meaning the depriver was acting under their authority as a police officer or state official.
The complaint also alleges standard battery tort claims and a respondeat superior claim to tie it back to the employer. Battery is simply unwanted harmful or offensive contact. Respondeat superior is a theory that holds employers liable for the actions of their employees while those employees are on duty.
In the present case, which was filed by the victim’s father on his behalf, the point of the redundant actions is to ensure that both the officer and the police department are liable. This is important because the department likely has deeper pockets than a street-level officer.
If the officer cannot afford to pay the damages, it falls upon his employer as well, especially since the shooting happened in the line of duty. Had the officer been off-duty and carrying a personal firearm, the department would be far less likely to be on the hook.
Much will be made of Cesar Munive’s alleged gang affiliations and criminal record. The Berwyn Life reports that he has a record of battery convictions and misdemeanor sexual abuse. Nonetheless, that still doesn’t justify, and is not relevant to, the alleged bullet in the back. The official investigation by the Illinois State Police is still pending.