Ebony Tate says she was sitting on a living room couch as her 4-year-old daughter napped beside her in August when Chicago police SWAT team members set off flash grenades outside the South Side residence and broke through the front screen door.
Screaming and cursing loudly, multiple officers pointed assault rifles at Tate and her three other children as they ordered everyone — including the family’s scantily dressed grandmother, who was about to take a bath — out of the apartment, alleged a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
For more than an hour outside the Back of the Yard neighborhood home, officers ignored pleas from the grandmother, Cynthia Eason, 55, for clothing to cover the T-shirt and underwear she wore, according to the suit. With neighbors and onlookers watching the dramatic scene — the SWAT team had arrived with an armored military vehicle — Tate says she suffered a panic attack, requiring medical attention.
And yet Chicago police had raided the wrong house, the lawsuit charged. Police eventually left without an apology or an explanation, according to the suit.
At a news conference Friday announcing the lawsuit, attorney Al Hofeld Jr. said Chicago police make the mistake all too frequently. He cited two other lawsuits he has brought in recent months making similar allegations, including one that the city agreed to settle for $2.5 million.
Hofeld said police have no video of the incident because SWAT team members — trained to be aggressive — aren’t required to wear body cameras.
The lawsuit against the city of Chicago and three named officers alleged that police “terrorized” the family, including the children, aged 4, 8, 11 and 13.
Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said he had not seen the lawsuit and declined to comment. A Chicago police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Tate and her mother, Eason, stood on either side of Hofeld, their hands crossed in front of them, as the lawyer spoke of how the children have had difficulty sleeping and act fearful around officers.
The children “now suffer severe, emotional and psychological distress and injury as the direct result of their exposure to defendants’ unnecessary and terrifying conduct,” the lawsuit said.
Tate first heard loud “popping” sounds outside her apartment — an apparent reference to the flash grenades — then saw men with guns prying open her screen door, according to the lawsuit. She thought she was being robbed, the suit said.
READ MORE: Chicago cops pointed guns at children while raiding the wrong address, lawsuit says »
Eason, who was in her bedroom, compared the sound to a car crashing through the front of the home, according to the suit. She went to investigate and found herself inches from a gun pointed at her as an officer shouted, “Get out! Get out!” according to the suit.
About 10 officers had stormed into the home, according to the lawsuit.
The 8-year-old boy’s hands shot “straight up in the air” as all six members of the family were escorted out of the house at gunpoint, the suit said.
“I did not want them to make a move because I was afraid that they would get shot,” Eason said of her grandchildren.
While outside, Eason learned from police that the search warrant sought a 20-year-old man, the suit said. Police alleged he had sold drugs to an undercover officer under the stairs near Tate’s apartment.
Police arrested the man in a neighboring apartment, according to the suit.
The children show signs of possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the suit said.
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The complaint called the officers “rude, nasty and sarcastic” and said their actions “were totally unnecessary, excessive, unreasonable, and without any lawful justification.”
Hofeld said the City Council approved a $2.5 million settlement in June in a similar lawsuit he filed that alleged Chicago police had raided the wrong home. In that incident, officers pointed a gun at a 3-year-old girl and handcuffed her grandmother, he said.
In another lawsuit filed in August, Hofeld said, another family alleged police raided the wrong home and pointed guns at 5- and 9-year-old boys and their parents.
In body camera footage recently released by the city of that raid, officers could be heard questioning out loud if they were in the right home.