Maywood Approves $45K Settlement in Case of Police Shooting of Illegal Pitbull

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A portion of federal court records relating to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against Maywood police officers in 2014. | Screenshot

Thursday, January 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

During a Jan. 24 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $45,000 settlement agreement relating to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by three Maywood residents in 2014.

In the original civil rights complaint, Jose Nativdad Pena, Jose A. Pena, Maria G. Reyes and Concepcion Pena alleged that on March 18, 2014, their apartment at 321 W. Lake St. in Maywood was “illegally entered and searched” and Jose A. Pena “was illegally seized and arrested” by unidentified police officers.

At the time, the complaint notes, Pena was standing outside of his Lake Street home with three friends when a Maywood police car drove past his house “and shortly thereafter came down the block again.”

After he and his friends went inside of the house, Pena claims that “without any legal justification, warrant or probable cause, and without knocking or announcing themselves, the defendant officers tried to open the locked door” to the home.

Pena claims that he was illegally seized and arrested without a “warrant, probable cause or any legal justification,” and that police searched his home without a “warrant, probable cause or any legal justification, or without knocking or announcing their office.” Afterward, Pena was “held for a substantial period of time and then released.”

Less than a month later, on April 4, 2014, three Maywood police officers “illegally entered” the Lake St. home again without knocking or announcing their office, the plaintiffs claimed.

Shortly afterward, the plaintiffs’ dog, a 60-pound pit bull named Spike, charged at Maywood Police Officer Patrick Reilly, who then “fired a single shot, wounding the dog and stopping the attack,” according to federal court documents.

The original complaint claims that the dog “did not pose an immediate danger and the shooting of Spike was avoidable.” The complaint also notes that the shooting “constituted an unreasonable and illegal seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

The plaintiffs claimed that they suffered “emotional distress and other pecuniary damages” after the shooting. The dog was eventually taken to an animal hospital “where its wounds were treated and stitched” before it was released.

According to court documents, Maywood police claimed that they were responding to a call that “there were ‘unwanted subjects'” inside of the second-floor apartment within the Lake Street building, which police said was known for gang-related activity, including “gang loitering.” The apartment itself was thought to be vacant, police said.

Court documents show that the defendants raised doubt about “whether the plaintiffs had the legal right to be in the building or were trespassers or ‘squatters.'”

“Of course, if the Penas were occupying the property unlawfully, they would have no Fourth Amendment claim,” the defendants argued in court records.

“All we know about any of the plaintiffs is that Mr. Pena, Sr. has a Matricular Consular, an ID card used by Mexican citizens living abroad,” was born in 1960 before coming to the United States “nearly 40 years ago,” “cannot read or write any English” and cannot “speak or understand” almost any English.

The Penas’ pit bull, courts records show, was not licensed or neutered despite village ordinances requiring this to be the case.

“Moreover,” the defendants’ argued, “the Penas were living within 1500 feet of a park; pit bulls are not allowed to be kept that close to the park.”

In late 2016, a federal judge issued a consent judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $15,000. Jose A. Pena was not listed in this judgment, court records show. According to a Jan. 17, 2017 village memo, the village “has denied liability for” the plaintiffs’ claims and “has settled this matter with them individually.”

The $45,000 that was approved earlier this week will pay for the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs’ counsel, the memo states, had initially demanded $78,000 in fees before agreeing to the reduced amount after several rounds of negotiation. VFP

Original Complaint | June 6, 2014

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER || March 15, 2016

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER || Aug. 29, 2016

U  P  C  O  M  I  N  G

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One thought on “Maywood Approves $45K Settlement in Case of Police Shooting of Illegal Pitbull”

  1. Wow! That is absolutely crazy. I don’t know if the Maywood police officers need to be re-trained or what. $45,000 is a lot of money from taxpayers dollars to pay this settlement. With all these legal settlements, it should let the citizens of Maywood and the administration know that there should be a reform.

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