December 28, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 10:17 p.m.
During a Dec. 20 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted to approve a resolution authorizing the payment of $200,000 in settlement funds stemming from a lawsuit filed against the Village of Maywood by Erica Williams, the mother of Xavier McCord.
McCord, 20, was killed on Nov. 8, 2012, by Maywood Police Officer Michael Babicz, who along with his partner, Officer Kyle Rice, and Officer Pete Schleich, are named as co-defendants in the civil suit.
According to federal court documents dating back to September, Judge John Lee eventually dismissed Rice and Schleich as defendants in the case.
According to court documents, Babicz and Rice were partners on Nov. 8. At around 4:30 p.m., “they were passing the parking lot behind” an apartment building on the 1800 block of South 19th Ave. when they saw McCord “walking away from the building looking down at his phone.”
When McCord looked up from his phone and in the officers’ direction, he “immediately turned around to enter the apartment building through the rear door.”
Rice and Babicz then followed McCord “to conduct a field interview” of the young man “because of his ‘suspicious’ conduct.”
“The officers do not claim that they had probable cause to justify an arrest or reasonable suspicion to justify detaining McCord temporarily,” court documents show. “Nevertheless, Babicz and Rice decided to follow him into the apartment building.”
According to some Maywood officers who were on the scene, Babicz and Rice went into the building with their guns drawn (“or drew them quickly after entering”), passed by a crowd of people in the building’s stairwell and began running after McCord, “ignoring everyone else.”
According to Babicz’s testimony, he saw a “chrome handgun in McCord’s right hand as he followed him up the stairs.” Babicz testified that McCord turned around and raised the gun “up a little bit.” After ordering him to drop the gun, Babicz testified that he “fired two rounds at” McCord, who fell to the floor.
Rice testified that he saw “a chrome plated semiautomatic handgun … bounce down the stairs” and drop on the landing before contacting dispatch to “report the shooting while Babicz handcuffed McCord.”
According to Schleich, Rice exited the building with the gun before re-entering the building to put the gun back on the landing. Schleich later testified that “it was improper for Rice to remove the gun from the scene; however, Schleich confirmed that the gun he saw Rice bring into the building matched the gun Schleich had seen on the stairs when he first arrived.”
After investigating the shooting, officials with the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit found that the “gun had been removed and replaced” and that “no fingerprints from were obtained from the gun, and the gun could not be tied to McCord forensically in any manner.”
After the state police investigated the shooting, the case was “turned over to the Cook County State’s Attorney, who declined to file criminal charges against Babicz.”
McCord’s mother has insisted that he didn’t have a gun, although, court records show, McCord’s friends, Keontac McKinney and James Bickhem, “could not testify with absolute certainty that McCord did not have a gun.”
However, McKinney said in his deposition that, if McCord had a gun, he would have told him so and Bickhem said that, after wrestling with McCord earlier that day, he didn’t feel a gun on his friend’s person.
In addition, court records show, a resident of the building testified that “soon after the shooting” she saw from her bedroom window “a confrontation between two officers” during which one officer asked, “‘Why did you shoot, you know, we had the building surrounded, he couldn’t go anywhere.'”
The resident added that the confrontation between the officers “almost really got physical” and that a third officer had to intercede.
Maywood Trustee Isiah Brandon abstained from the vote to approve the settlement payment because, Brandon said, he knew McCord and his family. Brandon also said that he was at the scene of the shooting shortly after it happened.
This is at least the third police misconduct settlement the village board has approved in the last six months.
In July, the village board approved a $7,500 settlement with Derrick Neal Lewis, who filed a civil rights complaint in 2014. Lewis claimed that he was beaten by Maywood police officers during an arrest in 2013. Officers Babicz and Rice are named in this suit as well.
And in September, the board approved a $35,000 settlement agreement in relation to a man who claimed that he was unlawfully beaten and tased multiple times by Maywood police in 2014 after filming an officer with his camera phone. Officer Babicz is also named in this suit.
At the Dec. 20 meeting, the board also approved $22,000 settlement agreement in relation to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the mother of a minor. Documents relating to that case are not readily available. VFP
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