Family of Chicago man fatally shot by police files federal civil rights lawsuit against city and tactical officers

The family of Dexter Reed, a 26-year-old Black man who was killed in a hail of bullets fired by police during a traffic stop in Chicago last month, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and five police officers on Wednesday.

The 81-page, 17-count lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, alleges the officers carried out an unlawful and pretextual traffic stop and used excessive force in the shooting.

The suit also accuses the city of having a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutional traffic stops and of using excessive and escalatory force. Further, the lawsuit accuses the city of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, stating that Reed was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Dexter Reed is not alive today because of the actions of these officers and the inactions of the city of Chicago,” civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth said Wednesday in a news conference with Reed’s family. “Nothing brings Dexter back, but this family doesn’t want it to happen to yet another family in the city of Chicago.”

The lawsuit comes just over a month after Reed was fatally shot by Chicago police during a traffic stop, “purportedly for a seatbelt violation,” according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency responsible for investigating police shootings. The office released body-camera footage of the incident two weeks ago, alleging that Reed appeared to fire first at the officers, who then returned fire as many as 96 times over 41 seconds.

Reed was later taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. One officer was shot in the wrist and was hospitalized in good condition, Chicago police said.

Dexter Reed, 26, was fatally shot by police last month during a traffic stop in Chicago. - Collins and Stone Funeral Home
Dexter Reed, 26, was fatally shot by police last month during a traffic stop in Chicago. - Collins and Stone Funeral Home

The shooting remains under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said her office is also investigating to determine whether any officers would face criminal charges.

The city of Chicago declined to comment on the suit. “The City has not been served with the complaint and does not comment on pending litigation,” spokesperson Kristen Cabanban said.

CNN has reached out to the officers named in the lawsuit for comment.

What the lawsuit alleges

The family’s lawsuit alleges that the five officers targeted Reed in a “predatory, violent, unlawful traffic stop” and unnecessarily escalated the situation.

“Defendant Officers violated numerous laws and CPD policies during their encounter with Dexter. The initial stop was unlawful and pretextual. Defendant Officers had no reasonable suspicion that Dexter violated any law, and they falsely stated otherwise in official CPD reports,” the suit states.

The suit also alleges the officers approached Reed in an unmarked vehicle, were wearing plainclothes and did not identify themselves as police. The officers pointed their guns at Reed and screamed conflicting commands, the suit states.

“Defendant Officers’ actions created a confusing and chaotic environment and placed Dexter in objective fear for his safety, and at risk of great bodily harm,” the lawsuit states.

The officers fired about 83 times in roughly 27 seconds, and Reed then “exited the vehicle, unarmed, with hands empty and raised,” the lawsuit states. Four of the officers then fired additional bullets at him, including as he lay face down and motionless on the street, the suit alleges.

Speaking at the news conference Wednesday, Reed’s parents criticized the officers’ actions and the city’s law enforcement policies.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released body-camera footage of the police shooting of Dexter Reed earlier this month. - COPA Chicago
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability released body-camera footage of the police shooting of Dexter Reed earlier this month. - COPA Chicago

“My son, he was a good kid,” Dexter Reed Sr. said. “He liked sports, we talked basketball games all the time. He was always telling his mom good food to eat and stuff like that. I’m going to miss him. It was unfortunate he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“He didn’t deserve none of that,” he added. “They shot him down like he was an animal. They shot him three times in the back after he laid down. That’s overkill.”

His mother, Nicole Banks, said she hasn’t been able to sleep since watching the video, saying the officers “executed” her son. “But I am so hurt that they did my son like this,” she said through tears.

The family and their attorneys did not take questions.

Reed had previously been charged with three counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and possessing a firearm with a revoked Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card, according to Cook County Court records. He appeared in court on March 12 – just over a week before his death – and had a court status hearing scheduled for April 25.

Porscha Banks, Reed’s sister, told CNN her brother had experienced a lot of paranoia last year and believed people were out to get him. She said she did not know his exact reason for getting a gun but noted, “he said he wanted to protect himself.”

It’s not clear if the weapon allegedly found in his vehicle was the same firearm.

What the video shows

The fatal incident began in a residential area of Chicago on March 21 when officers assigned to a tactical unit carried out a traffic stop of Reed, purportedly for not wearing a seatbelt, according to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Reed was driving his recently purchased white SUV, the lawsuit states.

Citing body-camera footage and other materials, the office said Reed did not comply with police verbal commands. Officers pointed their firearms at him, and Reed allegedly shot first at an officer, the office states.

“Upon stopping Mr. Reed, multiple officers surrounded his vehicle while giving verbal commands. When Mr. Reed did not comply with these commands, officers pointed their firearms at Mr. Reed and ultimately there was an exchange of gunfire which left Mr. Reed dead and an officer shot in the forearm,” COPA said.

“Review of video footage and initial reports appears to confirm that Mr. Reed fired first, striking the officer and four officers returned fire,” the office said.

The officers shot about 96 times over 41 seconds, including after Reed left the vehicle and fell to the ground, the office said. A gun was recovered in the front passenger seat of Reed’s vehicle, the office said.

It was not clear from CNN’s review of bodycam footage who fired first.

In one video, an officer wearing a hooded jacket, a baseball cap and a tactical vest with a badge on it approached the driver of a white vehicle with dark-tinted windows.

“Roll the window down. Roll the window down,” the officer told the driver. The driver initially rolled his window down but then kept rolling it back up.

“What are you doing?” the officer asked. “Don’t roll the window up. Do not roll the window up!”

The officer pulled on the driver’s door handle – which appears to be locked – and then drew a gun. “Unlock the doors now! Unlock the doors now!” the officer screamed as another officer shouted the same demands.

The driver apparently said, “OK, I’m trying to.”

Seconds later, as the officer retreated from the vehicle, gunfire broke out. Dozens of gunshots are then heard in rapid succession.

Other bodycam videos show at least two other officers firing toward Reed from across the street in the residential neighborhood. Both of those officers paused to reload their guns. After the barrage of gunfire ends, Reed’s body was found lying face down behind the vehicle.

“He started shooting at us,” an officer said in one of the videos.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez and Holly Yan contributed to this report.

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