A sister of a man shot to death by Chicago police officers last year in a Prairie District park challenged officers’ version of events, saying an officer who was wounded in what police described as an exchange of gunfire actually shot himself.
Arlena Love filed a wrongful death suit Monday against the city of Chicago and three police officers, saying they overreacted and used excessive force when they shot and killed her brother, Derek Love, 50, on July 21, 2016, in Battle of Fort Dearborn Park. Arlena Love is administrator of her brother’s estate.
Around 8 p.m. that evening, bicycle officers responded to a report of a person “acting erratically” at the park, 1801 S. Calumet Ave. Soon after, they found Derek Love, who was on his cellphone at the time.
The police narrative and the account given in the lawsuit differ on what happened next. The officers named in the suite could not immediately be reached for comment, and Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment on pending litigation.
Police said in the day after the shooting that Love pulled a gun out of his backpack and began firing, hitting a 17-year veteran officer in the leg. The day of the shooting, police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters the wounded officer was able to apply a tourniquet to his leg with the help of his partner, probably saving his life.
Days later, Johnson and dozens of others attended a vigil for the wounded police officer, which was lamented as the latest attack on law enforcement, following officers recently killed in Dallas, Baton Rouge, La., and Kansas City, Kan.
“These are difficult times we’re in right now,” Johnson said at the time. “It’s a difficult time to be in law enforcement. We’re more than a team, we’re a family. It’s important to show support for one another as we go through these difficult times.”
The lawsuit, however, suggests Love was unarmed and his drawstring Nike bag only contained a few cans of beer and his ID. He tried to walk away from officers but didn’t hit or point any weapon at them.
The wounded officer accidentally shot himself, it says.
Documents released by the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency charged with investigating police-involved shootings, indicate the officer reported a self-inflicted wound as a result of discharging his weapon. The officer was treated and released from the hospital the next day.