Date of Death: 8/6/2007
Family of teen slain by police awarded $8.5 M
Jurors decided 2007 shooting was unjustified
August 19, 2013 (CHICAGO) –
One day after jurors awarded $8.5 million to the family of a teen fatally shot in the back by a Chicago police officer in 2007, his mother said she hoped the verdict would influence other families who have sued over fatal police involved shootings not to give up the fight.
“There’s been a lot of times I wanted to give up, but I never give up on my kids,” said
Annie Johnson, whose 18-year-old son Aaron Harrison’s death sparked protests after he
was shot while running from Chicago police in the North Lawndale community.
Police said Harrison was shot after raising a gun at an officer during the chase in the 1300
block of South Mozart Street. But five eyewitnesses testified that Harrison wasn’t
carrying a gun and didn’t point one at an officer, and that they saw no gun near his body
immediately after the shooting, said the family’s attorney, James Montgomery, at a news
conference Friday in his office.
“Then after the handcuffing — magically the gun appears,” Montgomery said of the 9
mm weapon police said they recovered. “Evidence pointed to a planted weapon on the
The wrongful death lawsuit took six years to play out in Cook County Circuit Court.
Jurors, who were encouraged by the family’s attorneys to re-enact the shooting, took less
than three hours to reach a verdict, Montgomery said. An earlier trial in May ended with
a mistrial after that jury deadlocked.
The city could appeal. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department did not return
messages. The city already has spent more than $54 million this year — twice what was
budgeted — to settle police misconduct lawsuits.
Montgomery said the verdict could be read as a rebuke of the Independent Police Review
Authority, which in 2009 found that the shooting was justified.
“I think the jury demonstrated that that report was objectively unreasonable,” he said.
“I don’t know how they come up with it,” Johnson said.
The pursuit that ended with Harrison dead began when a police “wolf pack” — a two-car
convoy — traveling west on Roosevelt Road saw a group of young men gathered near
South Francisco Avenue, Montgomery said.
One officer saw a man “holding or adjusting his right side,” and one of the police
vehicles swung around and came up on the curb, he said. Harrison began running.
Protests over the shooting began the night it happened when five people were arrested for
allegedly throwing rocks and bottles at police. Later there were two meetings between
police and clergy over the shooting, and in 2007 a routine police board meeting was
adjourned early when protesters angry over how the shooting was handled began
chanting, “No justice, no peace!”
Montgomery said the jury system was the only institution that worked for Johnson.
“When individuals like the police officer in this case, when they cross the line, just like
anybody else who holds the public trust, they must be held accountable for it,” he said.