Historic $45 million Chicago police misconduct settlement moves forward

CHICAGO — Chicago aldermen advanced a plan Monday to award a $45 million settlement to a 15-year-old boy left unable to talk and walk after he was injured in a police chase car crash.

The settlement — set to become one of the largest in Chicago’s history if it passes the full City Council Wednesday — will help pay for the medical care of Nathen Jones. Jones suffered “catastrophic” injuries in a high-speed April 2021 crash during a police chase. He will need around-the-clock medical care for the rest of his life, according to his family’s attorneys.

The settlement passed unanimously in the council’s Finance Committee Monday as aldermen offered sympathy to Jones and his mother, who watched the deliberation in the council chambers. The case involving the Chicago Police Department’s controversial “no-chase” policies shows “there are rules in place for a reason,” Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th, said.

“If somebody’s running through a stop sign, that doesn’t mandate a chase,” Vasquez said. “There was so much that could have been done differently.”

Jones was in the back seat of a 2002 Volkswagen CC that police attempted to pull over for disregarding a stop sign in the West Town neighborhood. When officers turned on their lights, the Volkswagen’s driver, Khalil Raggs, drove off, sparking a high-speed chase down North Wood Street and North Damen Avenue.

Officer Jhonathan Perez drove his police cruiser at top speeds of 67 miles per hour “before turning off his emergency equipment and slowing his car,” city attorney Margaret Mendenhall Casey said. But seconds later, the Volkswagen sped into the intersection at Damen and Grand avenues, where it crashed into another car.

Raggs, also named in Jones’ lawsuit, was sentenced to three years in prison for the crash and charges related to a gun found in his car. Jones suffered catastrophic brain injuries, according to his attorneys.

“Nathen is nonverbal, cannot dress or bathe independently and requires assistance for all activities. He wears diapers and is fed through a feeding tube,” Mendenhall Casey said.

CPD vehicle chase policies do not allow officers to pursue drivers for minor traffic offenses. Perez, who remains on active duty, later testified that the chase violated department policy. The city would likely be required to pay for all of Jones’ lifetime medical expenses if it were found at all responsible for the crash in court, Mendenhall Casey said.

No amount of money can turn Jones back into the happy, healthy 15-year-old he was before the crash, his mother, Erika Boyd, said at a news conference later Monday. Her days are now defined by her son’s complex needs, she said.

“This is going to be the rest of our lives,” Boyd said. “Just a simple, ‘Hey mom, how was your day?’ — I’ll never be able to get that again.”

The city would likely be forced to pay much more than the $45 million settlement if the case went to trial, said attorney Patrick Salvi Jr. of the family’s law firm, Salvi Schostok & Pritchard. The high price, which Salvi said he believes will become the largest police settlement in Chicago’s history Wednesday, shows how important it is that policies like the “no chase” rules are followed.

“These are rules that have been written in blood,” he said.

If approved by the full City Council, the settlement would compel the city to pay $20 million and its insurer to pay $25 million. Aldermen also advanced expensive settlements Monday in two additional lawsuits involving Chicago police.

The Finance Committee advanced in a 21-4 vote a $2.25 million settlement for the family of Roshad McIntosh. McIntosh was fatally shot by police in 2014 after fleeing from officers who had responded to a tip about possible illegal guns. McIntosh’s mother alleged in a federal lawsuit her son was surrendering and unarmed when he was shot and that police misconduct in the shooting had been hidden by a “code of silence.”

Police said McIntosh, then 19, pointed a gun at an officer before he was shot, but CPD reopened its investigation into the shooting in November 2017 after surveillance video showed testifying officers weren’t as close to the shooting as they had said — an inconsistency that led to one officer’s resignation. Police at the time said they recovered a loaded 9mm pistol near his body, though an Illinois State Police inspection found no usable fingerprints. McIntosh’s mother claimed the gun was planted.

Council members also approved a $5.5 million settlement for Ricardo Rodriguez, a man who spent decades in prison for what his attorneys say was a wrongful conviction for a 1991 shooting murder.

In a federal lawsuit, Rodriguez accused disgraced former Chicago police Detective Reynaldo Guevara of extracting a false confession using physical and psychological abuse during an interrogation, while having no physical evidence to link Rodriguez to the crime.

Guevara has been accused of fabricating evidence against people throughout his career with the Chicago Police Department, leading to dozens of overturned convictions, including Rodriguez’s. Legal awards in cases involving Guevara have cost the city around $55 million, according to city attorneys.