Cicero settles police misconduct case for nearly $12 million
BY Becky schlikerman Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 19, 2013 7:54PM
Updated: August 22, 2013 6:03AM
Hector Ramos hasn’t been the same since Cicero police burst into his home and beat him and his family a decade ago, relatives and court records said.
But now Ramos and his family will have millions to care for the severe trauma the raid left him with, after attorneys agreed to a nearly $12 million legal settlement, said David A. Cerda, the attorney for the Ramos family.
For Hector Ramos’ family, it’s a bittersweet ending after a decade of taking care of a young man who was severely impaired, and left with cognitive and emotional damage, by a “melee” with police inside a Cicero apartment, according to court records.
“At least we don’t have to be thinking, ‘We don’t have the money to get him a good doctor, good medicine, good counseling,’ ” said his sister, Evelyn Ramos. “At least we’re thankful about that.”
And in the legal community, it’s considered a “huge” settlement for a police misconduct case, local attorneys said.
It’s a case that current Cicero Town President Larry Dominick “inherited” from past administrations and the settlement “represented the most financially prudent course for [the] town to avoid a runaway jury,” Cicero spokesman Ray Hanania said in an email. “Pre-trial rulings by [U.S. District] Judge [John] Grady, who was the judge in the [Betty] Loren-Maltese corruption trial, decimated our ability to defend ourselves, and settling the case was the best course to minimize risk to the town.”
Hector and Evelyn Ramos, plus seven other members of their family, filed a lawsuit in 2004 claiming that several Cicero police officers stormed their Cicero apartment, beat them up and then falsely arrested them in April 2003.
Hector Ramos was walking out of the bathroom that night when one of the officers “rushed” toward him, searched him, handcuffed him and told him he was under arrest. The officer, Frank Kane, then took Hector Ramos onto the second floor landing and “began threatening to kill Hector Ramos if he remained in Cicero while shoving him needlessly and punching him in the head, chest and stomach,” according to the lawsuit. Cerda, the Ramos’ attorney, said Hector Ramos’ head hit the floor while he was being punched.
Four other members of the Ramos family were also struck by police, according to the lawsuit. That included Hector Ramos’ mother, Isidra Garcia, who was “slammed” and shoved against a wall by an officer using a police baton, according to the lawsuit.
Police subsequently filed “false criminal complaints” against five members of the family accusing them of battery, according to the lawsuit. Not one member of the family was found guilty of any crime, according to the lawsuit.
Immediately after the encounter with police, Hector Ramos began to act strangely, according to court records and his family. He stopped going out — at times he simply stayed in a dark room — and he stopped talking much. Jeri Morris, a neuropsychologist, evaluated Hector Ramos and determined “the cognitive, emotional and psychosocial symptoms shown by Mr. Ramos had a sudden onset, precipitated by the incident with the police,” according to her report included in court filings. “In one day, he went from being a social person who spent time with friends, who socialized with family members, who conversed normally, and who showed appropriate affect to being an individual who is continually fearful and communicates in the most minimal way.”
Morris determined Hector Ramos had a “terrifying, life-threatening experience” and also likely suffered head trauma from the incident. The combination “have resulted in a breakdown of his capacity to function,” Morris said. She predicted that his condition will likely not improve and said Hector Ramos needs supervision 24 hours a day.
Local attorneys said that the settlement of $11.6 million, which is the figure provided by Cerda, is one of the largest in this type of case.
The settlement is also notable because of Hector Ramos’ condition — he didn’t have demonstrative psychical injuries, his attorney said.
“It’s huge in terms of a damages award in a case that doesn’t involve, from my understanding, significant physical injuries,” said People’s Law Office attorney John Stainthorp.
It shows, he said, “the emotional toll of police misconduct can be massive.”
No one knows that better than Hector Ramos and his family.
They live in Michigan now and Garcia, Hector Ramos’ mom, takes care of him.
“His mental illness doesn’t allow him to do much. He doesn’t have any social life whatsoever,” Evelyn Ramos, 28, said.
And though Hector Ramos now will have millions, he doesn’t understand what it means.
“He’s going to get the finances, but still he doesn’t even comprehend. He doesn’t even say, ‘OK, take me to the mall,’” Evelyn Ramos said. “What he has now, a normal person would say ‘Now I have money to go on vacation, to go shopping’ — he doesn’t [understand].”