The Village of Lynwood has paid $500,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit that claimed a police officer cold-cocked a handcuffed prisoner without provocation.
Only a handful of Cook County suburbs have paid more in recent years to settle a police misconduct case, according to a previous Better Government Association analysis.
The prisoner, Randolph Holmes, claimed in a July 2014 lawsuit that while he was in custody Lynwood police Sgt. Brandin Fredericksen knocked him unconscious, fracturing Holmes’ nose and causing a concussion.
The BGA/CBS2, as well as the Northwest Indiana Times, previously reported that Lynwood police didn’t immediately investigate Fredericksen and may have even tried to cover up the altercation, captured on police station video.
It was only after repeated inquiries from BGA/CBS2 and the hiring of a new police chief that the video saw the light of day and Fredericksen was taken off the street.
“The cover-up went all the way to the top levels of the Village of Lynwood Police Department, all the way to the [now-former] chief of police,” says Holmes’ attorney James Montgomery Jr. “Without your persistence the tape would never have come to light.”
The office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, which has been accused of failing to prosecute police heavy-handedness in other instances, was aware of the Lynwood incident and video from almost the start but apparently has never interviewed Fredericksen or another officer who witnessed some of the altercation.
Fredericksen hasn’t been criminally charged, though an Alvarez spokeswoman says prosecutors are looking at the matter.
Lynwood’s municipal government agreed last month to pay $500,000 to settle Holmes’ civil rights lawsuit, according to interviews and records. Fredericksen was personally named as a defendant, though in settling the claim neither he nor the village admitted any wrongdoing.
The village had placed Fredericksen on administrative leave in July 2014, nearly a year after the incident and amid repeated inquiries from BGA/CBS2. The move also coincided with the hiring of new police chief Russell Pearson.
Records show Fredericksen was fired last January after officials determined he assaulted Holmes. Fredericksen is appealing that decision.
Separately, the department has placed Michael Mears on paid administrative leave.
Mears was police chief at the time of the Holmes incident – Mears later relinquished that post though remained with the department. Mears has acknowledged he didn’t discipline Fredericksen, or require him to document what happened to Holmes, in apparent violation of department policy, according to interviews and records.
It’s unclear, however, if that’s why Mears has been put on leave.
Lynwood officials declined to comment about the settlement, the cover-up allegations or Mears’ suspension. Fredericksen also declined to comment.
“I don’t know anything,” Mears says. “I’m in the dark.”
Holmes, 26, was arrested the night of Sept. 20, 2013, for domestic battery and an outstanding warrant. Using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), BGA/CBS2 obtained video footage from a surveillance camera inside the station that shows Holmes and Fredericksen quarreling in a booking room.
The video also shows Fredericksen shoving the handcuffed Holmes into a door.
Separate footage, shot inside an attached police garage, then shows Fredericksen apparently striking Holmes with his arm or fist. The handcuffed prisoner’s knees buckled and he fell to the ground, appearing to be momentarily unconscious.
Another Lynwood police officer on duty that night has said that Fredericksen asked to see the video of the altercation several times after it happened, police records obtained by the BGA/CBS2 show.
From our media partner CBS2
“I just want to make sure it looks like he tripped,” Fredericksen said, according to a written statement provided by the officer.
There was no mention of the altercation in the initial police reports, though a supplementary report outlining what happened was filed after the BGA/CBS2 sent a FOIA request to the department.
Alvarez’s office charged Holmes with aggravated battery of a police officer, a felony, for allegedly spitting on Fredericksen, records show. Holmes pleaded guilty to resisting a police officer and was sentenced to a year in prison, though he was given credit for the time he had spent in Cook County Jail awaiting disposition of the case.
Holmes is now in Cook County Jail awaiting trial on an unrelated matter.
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, and Pam Zekman of CBS2. They can be reached at (312) 821-9035 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Main image obtained from Lynwood Police Department. Mears photo courtesy of Northwest Indiana Times.
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