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Pedro Rios Jr. Civil Suit: Chicago Police Struck 14-Year-Old With Car Prior to Fatal Shooting

Pedro Rios Jr. with the Casting Shadows Photography Club in 2012. (Courtesy Tom Callahan)

This is a supplement to Truthout’s four-part investigative series on the Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority, which includes Part I: As Chicago Police Kill Youth, Vast Misconduct Allegations Purged, Part II: Young Life vs. Deadly Force: The Training and Racism of Police Shootings and Part III: How the “Gold Standard” of Police Accountability Fails Civilians by Design.

Nine months after the fatal police shooting of their 14-year-old son, Laura and Pedro Rios Sr. filed a federal civil suit on April 9, 2015, by way of their lawyer, Mark Brown of Lane and Lane.

The complaint – naming the City of Chicago and as yet unknown police officers – includes a grim, new allegation. The lawsuit also represents the beginning of a court battle, to release video of the deadly encounter.

After crossing paths with a squad car on Cicero Avenue, the boy ran.

According to the complaint, “The officers then pursued Rios in their squad car before striking him with the vehicle,” going on to allege that an officer exited the car and shot the 14-year-old, laying prone in an alley.

Addressing police accusations, which justified the shooting, claiming the child brandished a weapon, Brown told media, “If he was indeed carrying a weapon … it’s not a death sentence. A police officer who sees somebody with a weapon doesn’t have unabashed authority to shoot that person and kill them.”

Through an exclusive investigation, Truthout uncovered alarming discrepancies among various official accounts and records of the incident – from the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Medical Examiner and the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), the public agency responsible for investigation complaints of misconduct and all officer-involved shootings.

Shot twice in the back – a detail undisclosed in prior media coverage – Rios’ autopsy report details the trajectory of the boy’s bullet wounds. Coursing upward through his 110-pound frame, the bullet wounds revealed that Rios was unlikely to have been shot in any manner but face down on the ground, as the suit alleges.

Taking place at the site of a surveillance supply company, the shooting was captured on video, in possession of the authorities. Carrying charges of excessive force and wrongful death, the complaint will be followed by an emergency motion to protect footage of the child’s killing.

A 12-year-old Pedro Rios Jr. in photography club at the swing (left). (Courtesy Tom Callahan)A 12-year-old Pedro Rios Jr. in photography club at the swing (left). (Courtesy Tom Callahan)

Rios’ mother, Laura Rios, has stated repeatedly that the family wants to know what happened the night of her son’s death – a request repeated at a press conference outside of the family’s home announcing the lawsuit. Queried multiple times on the shooting by Truthout, the Chicago Police Department did not respond to requests for comment. The City of Chicago Department of Law likewise did not offer comment to media after the suit was announced.

Speaking at length with Truthout, by way of an interpreter, Laura Rios said, “It all feels so wrong. I’m mad about what they did to my child. There has to be some justice. I want justice and to know the truth. That’s all I want. That’s all my husband wants.”

“We will never forget him.”

Truthout’s four-part investigative series, tracking the shooting of Pedro Rios Jr. and public agencies responsible for Chicago Police Department oversight will resume next week.

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