The family of a 22-year-old who died in a controversial shooting at the hands of a Cicero police officer with a troubled history will receive $3.1 million from the suburb, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso approved a settlement in the case, which stems from the shooting in 2012 of Cesar Munive, who was shot in the back by officer Don Garrity following a police chase.
The court case took a bizarre twist earlier this year when it was disclosed that next to Munive’s dead body was a .38 caliber revolver that once belonged to the father of a Cook County judge. Eight years before the shooting, the judge had turned the gun over to Chicago police expecting it to be destroyed as part of buyback program.
A Better Government Association report in July raised questions about how the gun ended up years later at the scene of a fatal shooting. The Chicago Police Department has now launched an internal affairs investigation into the gun’s disappearance from police custody.
Read The Original Report: Journey Of A Judge’s Gun From Chicago Buyback To Cicero Police Shooting
Alonso called the lawsuit a “difficult case” during a hearing on September 6.
“The proposed settlement is fair and appropriate for the injuries,” he said.
Attorneys representing Munive’s family allege the 22-year-old was unarmed and officers planted the gun at the scene after the shooting. Cicero officials deny the allegation.
“It doesn’t bring back Cesar who died a tragic and unnecessary death, but justice was done and his family will at least receive some compensation for their loss,” said Jon Loevy, an attorney for the Munive family. “… Hopefully, the resolution will encourage Cicero to be more careful about the training it provides its police officers and this unfortunate tragedy won’t be repeated.”
In addition to the $3.1 million for the family, Cicero also agreed to pay $400,000 in attorney’s fees. BGA attorney Matt Topic is connected to Loevy’s firm, but was not involved in the Munive case and was not consulted for coverage of the shooting controversy.
Cicero agreed to settle the case just as it was set to go to trial in July.
Cicero Town spokesman Ray Hanania said in a statement the suburb agreed to the settlement based on the opinion of the town’s insurance carrier. “The Town of Cicero stands by the actions of its police department,” Hanania said in the statement.
Hanania’s statement also incorrectly asserted that the BGA had not disclosed in prior reporting the ties between its attorney and the firm representing the Munive family.
The lawsuit was filed after Garrity shot Munive in July 2012. Garrity claimed he fired after he saw Munive aim a gun at the windshield of an unmarked police squad car driven by another officer, Dominic Schullo, police reports show.
Garrity told investigators he ordered Munive to drop the gun, but Munive did not comply. The shooting occurred in a residential neighborhood at the northeast corner of 13th Street and South 57th Avenue in Cicero after Garrity and Schullo had responded in separate patrol cars to reports of a gang fight and saw Munive riding away on a bicycle.
Leading up to the trial, Cicero attorneys zeroed in on Munive’s lengthy criminal past. A Latin Count gang member, Munive’s rap sheet included convictions for sexual abuse of a minor, battery and unlawful use of a weapon.
Craig Tobin, an attorney for Garrity, claimed Munive got the gun from another member of the Latin Counts gang.
Tobin said he was disappointed the case did not proceed to trial and thought his client would have been vindicated.
“This was really a good shoot as ruled by the state’s attorney as well as the state police,” Tobin said. “We were comfortable with our proof, but it was a decision that was beyond our control.”
Key to the Munive family’s case was Garrity’s own troubled history. Before joining the Cicero force, Garrity resigned as a Berwyn police officer after he was arrested by North Riverside police who pursued him in his own private car on an early morning high-speed chase down Cermak Road.
After the Cicero shooting, Garrity was promoted from patrol officer to detective. He subsequently went on disability, collecting $55,000 annually, for what was described as post traumatic stress related to the Munive shooting. Garrity left the force and began collecting the money after depositions in the lawsuit revealed that he failed to disclose his Berwyn discipline problems when he applied for the Cicero position.