Chicago and police officers lose case and $7.7 million for false arrest -- chicagotribune.com
Chicago and police officers lose case and $7.7 million for false arrest
Woman pulled cop from wrecked car in 2002, but police said she stole service weapon
By Monique Garcia and David Heinzmann | Tribune reporters
11:07 PM CDT, June 12, 2008
A trained nurse, Rachelle Jackson immediately ran toward the sound of the crash. A Chicago police car had collided with another vehicle and was starting to smoke, two officers still inside. Fearing an explosion, she quickly pulled one officer from the passenger side.She never imagined her act of kindness nearly six years ago would land her in jail for more than 10 months on charges that she robbed, battered and disarmed a peace officer.
Jackson filed a lawsuit, and on Thursday a federal jury found against the city and several Chicago police officers, awarding Jackson $7.7 million for false arrest, malicious prosecution, coercive questioning and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"I'm going to go home and lie down for a little bit," an ecstatic Jackson, 41, said after the verdict. "I feel relieved. I'm happy, and I'm thanking God."
The case began in November 2002, when a car ran a stop sign in Jackson's neighborhood, slamming into the squad car. Jackson was walking nearby and rushed to the scene. When she arrived, the officer behind the wheel was unconscious and the passenger, Officer Kelly Brogan, was dazed.
She pulled Brogan from the wreckage and helped her to a nearby stoop. Soon after, police approached Jackson and told her that the driver's weapon had been stolen. When she was asked to go to the police station for questioning, she thought it was as a witness to the accident.
Instead, Jackson was accused of the theft. She was held for two days with little food and water and was threatened with violence until she agreed to sign a statement police had prepared for her. She was then charged and spent more than 10 months in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial.
Her case was later thrown out by a Circuit Court judge. Jackson sued the city, Brogan and the two interrogation officers in 2003.
Defense attorney Andrew Hale said the amount the jury awarded Jackson was "excessive" and that he would file post-trial motions to have the amount reduced.
He also questioned Jackson's intentions when she pulled the officer from the car.
"The officer said [Jackson] came at her, tried to get her gun and put her in a full-Nelson hold," Hale said. "I'm disappointed the jury could think that would be a legitimate rescue technique."
But Jackson's attorneys said it was clear she was trying to help the officer, not harm her.
"This was an innocent woman who saved a police officer from a burning car," said Chris Smith, who tried the case with Dan Alexander. "There were many heroes out there who helped the police, but they all turned into suspects because some guy ran away with the gun."