A Chicago suburb has tentatively agreed to pay out over $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by an African-American doctoral student who had been arrested and charged with stealing his own car.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the City of Evanston reached a tentative settlement with the lawyers of the then 25-year-old Northwestern University engineering doctoral candidate Lawrence Crosby to pay him what is believed to be $1.25 million in compensatory and punitive damages and other relief. And while Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz confirmed an agreement had been reached, he refused to confirm the exact amount because it was pending final City Council approval on January 28.
The lawsuit stemmed from an incident which unfolded in October 2015, when police subdued and arrested Crosby after responding to a call from a woman who claimed she saw the 25-year-old stealing a car. However, Crosby's lawyer Timothy Touhy said his client had just been trying to repair loose molding in his car.
He had been followed by the woman as he drove from his apartment to Northwestern's science building. Police dashcam footage of the incident shows Crosby stopping when he's pulled over and getting out of the car with his hands raised above his head.
He was seen holding a cell phone in one of his hands, with a recording from a camera on his car's dashboard showing he had used it to call a friend and say he was being followed, complaining that a black man could not work on his car at night without becoming a suspect.
After he gets out of the car, officers can be seen approaching him with guns drawn. When he does not comply with their commands quickly enough for their liking, a group of five officers can be seen rushing to him and bringing him on the ground.
Even after learning that the car did indeed belong to Crosby, they still arrested him and charged him with disobeying officers and resisting police. Those charges, however, were quickly thrown out by a judge and the 25-year-old subsequently filed a civil lawsuit at the Cook County Circuit Court citing false arrest and excessive force.
In the lawsuit, he asked the city of Evanston and the arresting officers to pay out at least $50,000 "compensatory and punitive damages, fees, costs, and such other relief."
In a statement released at the time of the arrest, a spokesman for the Evanston Police Department justified the use of force by contending the officers thought they were responding to reports of a grand theft auto. He said the officers had only delivered knee-strikes and open-handed strikes to major muscle groups, as trained.
Speaking about the settlement at a press conference, which comes close to three-and-a-half years after the initial incident, Crosby said, "It is not easy for me to go back to that situation. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over that in my lifetime."
His lawyer Touhy added, "It’s his hope that as a result of this case, that all of us begin a discussion on implicit bias and begin to recognize it and begin to discuss it between yourselves and your friends."
Watch the video of Crosby's forceful arrest here: