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Federal Lawsuit Filed After More Abuse Allegations Surface Surrounding Homan Square

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 20, 2015 8:45PM

The first federal lawsuit was filed yesterday in relation to the allegations of abuse and illegal detention by Chicago Police at the department’s Homan Square facility, first exposed by the Guardian last month. The suit, filed on behalf of John Vergara, Carlos Ruiz and Jose Garcia and published by The Guardian, alleges police “knowingly and intentionally schemed and worked together in a common plan to falsely arrest, illegally detain, and physically abuse” the men and conspired to cover it up.

The suit details a story similar to others who say they were detained at Homan. In this case, the three men were picked up in a raid at a Humboldt Park deli in 2011 by masked police officers and taken to the site. Officers did not have arrest warrants or other legal justification to stop or detain any of the plaintiffs and none of them had violated “any law within seven (7) days prior to handcuffing.”

The story plays out similarly to others that have emerged regarding the site. Multiple requests to contact family or lawyers were ignored along with requests for food, water and a restroom. The men say they were handcuffed to a metal bar— and each other— for almost nine hours until John Vergara asked to speak with civil rights attorney Blake Horwitz, who filed the suit. After this, the defending officers allegedly told Vergara “If you’re going to tell Blake, I’m going to pin a case on you and everybody else in here.” Only then did police offer the men a deal— keep quiet about Homan Square and they'd be let go.

Harassment by police after the ordeal continued, the lawsuit alleges. Officers reportedly rode by Paseo Boricua Grocery & Deli, where the men were picked up, on a “daily basis” and yelled at the men they were being watched.

Police have not responded to the lawsuit but have repeatedly denied allegations of any wrongdoing or suspicious illegal activity at the Homan Square facility. NBC5 reports police said the following in a statement:

“Arrests and interview procedures are matters of people's most basic rights, and CPD abides by all laws, rules and guideline pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses at Homan Square or any other CPD facility."

Others including the men’s attorney, however, say that the site is a problem endemic within the department. "It seems that there’s something particular about Homan Square where suspects are taken off the grid and that kind of thing,” said Horwitz.

Meanwhile, the commander in charge of the controversial site has resigned. The Guardian reports Nicholas Roti, chief of the bureau of organized crime, resigned from the department last week. Roti and CPD both say that the charges surrounding Homan Square, however, had nothing to do with his resignation and that it was already planned. "Chief Roti left CPD to become the chief of staff for the Illinois state police where he will work for another recently departed senior CPD official who was appointed to be the director of ISP," a spokesperson said in a statement. "It’s been in the works for some time."