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Charges possible against Chicago officer for West Side shooting

The shooting injury or death of an innocent person by a police officer can have criminal and civil consequences. Compensation is possible for victims of Illinois law enforcement misconduct, civil rights violations and wrongful death through liability claims.

In the heat of the moment, a police officer's unjustified use of force can hurt or kill a bystander. At one time, sovereign immunity laws made it impossible to sue a government or one of its entities. Legislatures and courts in many states now understand blameless victims require legal recourse.

The city of Chicago settled a $4.5 million wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a woman shot and killed in March 2012 on the city's West Side. The 22-year-old Dolton woman was part of group walking to a store in the middle of the night. A police officer driving by rolled down his window to address what he claimed was a disturbance.

A verbal exchange took place between male members of the group and the officer. Stories of what happened next differed, although the officer fired five shots. One bullet injured a man's hand; a second bullet "fired blindly" struck the Dolton woman's head.

The officer claimed he opened fire because one of the men shot at him. There was no weapon found on the man suspected of firing a gun. The injured man had been carrying a cellphone and talking with someone on it when the officer fired shots.

Cook County investigators concluded the man with the cellphone did not fire; he had no weapon. Criminal charges against the officer, assigned to desk duty since the incident, may be forthcoming. Reports said only one Chicago officer has been prosecuted for an unlawful shooting in the last 15 years. City police shot 659 people during that time.

Intentional harm or negligence is the basis for a liability claim and a plaintiff's request for rightful compensation.

Source: articles.chicagotribune.com, "Family of woman slain by off-duty Chicago cop still seeking justice" Stacy St. Clair and Jeremy Gorner, Nov. 25, 2013

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