Chicago officers handcuffed 8-year-old outside in cold and rain for 40 minutes, lawsuit says

Twenty SWAT officers, six plainclothes officers and five uniformed officers showed up to raid the family's home, according to a lawsuit. Nothing was found.
An 8-year-old boy was handcuffed for nearly an hour by Chicago police executing a search warrant on the city's South Side earlier this year, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
An 8-year-old boy was handcuffed for nearly an hour by Chicago police executing a search warrant on the city's South Side earlier this year, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.Courtesy Wilson family

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

An 8-year-old boy was handcuffed outside in the rain and cold for about 40 minutes by Chicago police officers while they raided his family's house, according to a lawsuit filed by his mother.

"He’s hurting, he’s only 8, he can’t take it anymore. It’s wrong. The children have already seen things they’re not supposed to see," the boy's mother, Alberta Wilson, begged the officers, according to the suit filed Wednesday against the city of Chicago and the police department. But her son remained cuffed.

Wilson was sleeping at her home with her other children, Royalty, 6, Royal, 8, and Roy, 9, on March 15 when about 20 SWAT officers, six plainclothes officers and five uniformed officers surrounded the house before 6 a.m.

Officers in the front and the back of the house flashed lights into the windows, as one shouted repeatedly over a bullhorn for the family to "come out with your hands up for your own safety," the suit said. Wilson's 2-year-old granddaughter, two adult sons, their girlfriends had stayed overnight and were also in the house at the time of the raid.

"As the family exited their home with arms in the air, a semicircle of SWAT and other officers aimed their assault rifles at close range at the family, including at the children, despite Ms. Wilson’s requests that they lower the guns because of the presence of the children," according to the suit.

"Officers’ guns were loaded, and their fingers were on the triggers. The children were afraid that they and their families were going to be shot," the suit said. The family is black, and most of the officers were white men, the suit said.

The family was marched out to the middle of the street and the adults were handcuffed in front of the children. Officers tried to cuff the mother of the 2-year-old but she protested that she would have to put the baby on the cold, wet ground, and they spared her.

Officers also handcuffed 8-year-old Royal behind his back, and left him that way for about 40 minutes "while he stood in the street shaking from fear and cold and drenched in the freezing rain," the suit said. The temperature was 32 degrees on the morning of March 15.

"A short, soft-spoken, well-mannered boy, Royal did not give officers the least reason to handcuff him," the suit said, adding the boy was left with a bruised wrist because the cuffs were too tight.

Royalty and Roy were not handcuffed, but they were still made to stand in the street for 40 minutes until their aunt came, and police eventually allowed her to retrieve the children, after first refusing.

"The whole family was soon soaking wet and freezing cold. Roy did not have a coat on. Royal wore a hoodie. Royalty wore a thin jacket. The family did not have umbrellas," the suit said.

The adults, meanwhile, were made to stand outside handcuffed for two hours while officers raided the home. "Neither the children nor any of the adults refused to follow instructions, resisted arrest, attempted to flee, or posed any threat whatsoever to the officers at any time," the court documents said.

But they were yelled and cursed at, according to the suit.

“Is there any f---ing thing we f---ing need to know before we go inside that f---ing house?!" one officer screamed at one of Wilson's sons.

When the officers entered the house, they tore it apart, flipped mattresses and took cash and mail, the suit said. Paperwork and clothes were scattered on the floor, and a hole the length of a hallway was blown through the ceiling so that they could search the attic when they could have used a door, it said.

The hole emitted "plaster and noxious insulation stuffing" on the strewn clothes, which had to be thrown out, and Roy suffered a two-week asthma attack, the suit said.

"Who's going to fix my home?" Wilson asked an officer as he left. "He simply shrugged his shoulders, said 'have a nice day' in a sarcastic tone, and walked away," the suit said.

Wilson is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit said the children are suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, don't want to go to school, can't sleep and need "high quality, long-term, costly psychological care and counseling" for emotional distress that "may never fully heal."

Royal dreams about "police coming back and shooting the family," and Royalty starts shaking and crying when she sees a police car, the suit said. "The three children did not have a bad impression of police before the incident. Now, they say what happened was 'evil.'”

Wilson, who is also suffering from mental distress, was pulled over several times "seemingly for no reason" near her home in the days following the raid, according to the suit. In one instance, the officer had his gun drawn, and Royalty was in the car.

The suit noted a 2017 U.S. Justice Department investigation found that the Chicago Police Department routinely violated people's rights, particularly those of black and Latino people, and habitually used excessive force against children.

"None of the reforms that CPD has implemented or announced to date purport to remedy or address these problems," the suit said.

Police told NBC Chicago in response to the suit that officers on the scene did not know Royal's age.

Chicago Police Department Sgt. Rocco Alioto said in a statement to NBC Chicago that officers were searching for an assault rifle "that could penetrate body armor."

"The target of the search warrant was on scene, and while there was no weapon located during the search, the location searched was the same as described on the search warrant," the statement said.