Couple: Off-duty Chicago Police officer beat us
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org June 25, 2012 10:18PM
Luis Cordero and girlfriend Heather Rzeny discuss how an off-duty cop hit Cordero in the head with a gun and put the barrel in his girlfriend's mouth in a confrontation on the Northwest Side on June 26, 2010. They tell their story in David Lipshultz's law office on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: July 27, 2012 6:05AM
He stumbled out of the car carrying a beer bottle, screaming.
He bashed Luis Cordero Jr. over the head with a revolver over and over, cursing all the while, according to Cordero, his girlfriend and witnesses.
Then it was Cordero’s girlfriend’s turn for terror.
“He put his gun in my mouth and said: ‘You better shut the f--- up, bitch, or I’ll blow your brains out,’ ” the girlfriend, Heather Rzany, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The man with the gun wasn’t a gangbanger, an angry relative or an armed robber.
He was an off-duty Chicago cop, far outside his Englewood district, getting involved in a noise complaint being handled by a private security guard on the Northwest Side, Cordero and Rzany allege. And now he’s being sued for brutality and investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority.
“I thought we were going to die,” Cordero said of the 2010 beating outside the Pavilion Apartments in the 5400 block of North East River Road.
For two years, the couple and their attorneys, David Lipschultz and Gregory Kulis, tried to identify the officer they named as an unknown “John Doe” defendant in a lawsuit they filed against the city in federal court.
All they knew was that the officer indicated he worked in the Chicago Police Department’s Englewood District, Lipschultz said. But sleuthing by the attorneys ended up with a name.
Lipschultz said he got the city to show Rzany photos of hundreds of Englewood police officers on Feb. 29. He said Rzany picked out two cops. Then, on June 14, the city confirmed that one of them — Officer Chris Gofron — was the unknown officer named in the couple’s lawsuit, according to records.
“By our own persistence and a lot of luck, this wasn’t another case that went by the wayside,” Kulis said.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, accuses an on-duty officer who responded to the beating of letting Gofron walk away — and of failing to document his name, badge number and where he worked.
Gofron, 34, is on active duty in the Englewood District as the Independent Police Review Authority investigates, a police spokeswoman said. Gofron could not be reached for comment. The city’s Law Department, which is representing Gofron, declined comment.
In an interview, Cordero said the trouble began around 2:20 a.m. June 26, 2010, when a security guard asked the couple to leave the picnic area of the apartment complex, where they were waiting for a friend who lives there.
The guard was responding to a noise complaint. Cordero said he and his girlfriend started to leave, even though others were making the ruckus.
“He was nice,” Cordero said of the security guard. Then Gofron got out of the security guard’s car, dropped a beer bottle and staggered up to the couple, according to Cordero’s lawsuit. The officer allegedly said he worked in Englewood on the South Side. He is accused of holding a Chicago Police badge in one hand and a revolver in the other.
“He started cursing — ‘didn’t you hear him? Get the f--- out of here!’ ” Cordero said.
Cordero said he asked the security guard to calm his partner, but the guard said they didn’t work together. Cordero said he raised his hands and turned his back on Gofron in “submission.”
“He hit me in the head with his gun, and kept coming,” Cordero said. “My girlfriend’s screaming ‘stop! stop!’ and he grabs her by the neck and has his gun buried in her face.”
Cordero, 31, said he cursed at Gofron in a ruse to draw him away from Rzany, 21.
Gofron allegedly followed Cordero toward the security vehicle and pointed his gun at Cordero’s forehead. Cordero said he scrambled to get away and Gofron resumed hitting him in the head with the gun. Meanwhile, a panicked Rzany called 911.
“A cop — an off-duty cop — is very drunk,” she told the 911 operator, according to a recording obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. “He just assaulted us and put a gun to our face ... and he’s hurting us at the Pavilion condos at Foster and Cumberland. ... He was pistol-whipping my boyfriend.”
Cordero was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his head and hands, which were struck as he tried to shield himself from the gun, he said.
Lipschultz said the couple’s allegations are supported by the security guard and by a resident who witnessed the beating. The guard gave a sworn deposition about the incident, telling Cordero’s attorneys that Gofron asked for a ride that night because he was looking for his car.
In a report to his company, obtained by the Sun-Times, the guard said he didn’t know the name of the off-duty officer — only that he asked for a ride, identified himself as a cop and flashed a five-point badge, which is what Chicago Police officers carry.
‘That’s how we do it
The guard in his report said the off-duty officer approached him holding a Bud Light beer bottle and said he wanted to “drive around.”
Gofron — a stranger to the guard — rode with him in his security vehicle, the guard said in the report. That’s why they were together when the off-duty cop attacked Cordero and his girlfriend with his gun, the guard said.
“I tell him to put the gun away but he continues,” the guard wrote of the beating.
To stop the attack, the guard said he persuaded the off-duty officer to get back into the security vehicle. The off-duty officer said: “That’s how we do it in Englewood,” according to the guard’s report.
The guard said the off-duty cop told him to “keep driving” when on-duty Chicago Police officers arrived. But the guard told Gofron he couldn’t and stopped the vehicle. The guard and his supervisor both said one of the on-duty cops spoke briefly to the off-duty officer, who then walked away.
The supervisor identified the on-duty Chicago Police officer as Jason Burg, according to a report. Burg, a 41-year-old Chicago Police officer in the Jefferson Park District, said in a separate police report that he requested an ambulance for the couple “after the offender struck victims with a revolver-type handgun.”
But Burg’s report doesn’t say he spoke to the off-duty officer. The report says that when Burg arrived, the “offender exited the security vehicle” and “fled southbound in the parking lot.”
Burg’s report said that Rzany told him that the man who beat Cordero was a cop, but didn’t say from which police department. According to Burg’s report, the security guard said the offender “was police but did not specify what department.”
The lawsuit lists Burg as a defendant for allegedly allowing Gofron to leave the scene without arresting him and allegedly failing to record his name and badge number. Burg couldn’t be reached for comment. The city’s Law Department declined to comment about Burg, too.
The lawsuit also accuses the Independent Police Review Authority of failing to conduct a thorough investigation.
Gofron was a defendant in another federal lawsuit alleging he and another officer used excessive force in the 2010 arrest of two Englewood juveniles whose theft charges were later dropped. In February, the city agreed to settle with each juvenile for $7,500 and pay their attorney $35,000, court records show.