'A civil and moral tragedy'

Oak Park resident arrested for traffic violation dies as a result of attempted suicide

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A 24-year-old Oak Park man, whose family members say he was unlawfully arrested and detained twice by the Chicago Police Department in 2016, died on April 18, after spending more than a year and a half on life support resulting from an attempted suicide in Cook County Jail.

Lisa Alcorn, the mother of Tyler Lumar, filed a lawsuit against the Cook County Sheriff's Department and various law enforcement officials in 2017, arguing that her son, a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, was arrested and held in violation of his 4th Amendment rights protecting him from unreasonable search and seizure.

Lumar was originally taken into custody over a faulty arrest warrant for a traffic violation and, while in Cook County Jail, was arrested a second time for allegedly being in possession of narcotics. Lumar had been searched eight separate times prior to the drug-related arrest, and his lawyer, Eileen O'Connor, says video surveillance in the jail proves the drugs were not his.

Shortly after his second arrest, Lumar hanged himself in his jail cell. He was discovered by a correctional officer and hospitalized for more than a year and a half prior to his death.

 

Falsely arrested, denied bond

Lumar first came in contact with Chicago police on Aug. 18, 2016, when he was denied medication at a West Side health clinic and began "yelling at the scene and refusing to leave," according to the lawsuit.

O'Connor said in a telephone interview that Lumar, a black man, believed the doctor declined to prescribe the medication because of his race.

Police arrived at the scene and told Lumar to leave. He complied but shortly after the incident, Lumar was walking down the street when the same officers arrested him for an outstanding warrant out of Lee County for driving on a suspended license.

Lumar had set up a payment plan on the Lee County traffic violation charge, sending in $25 a month, but he had missed the June payment by less than a week. The lawsuit notes that Lumar had made timely payments on the traffic violation from May 2015 to May 2016.

He missed the June payment by five days.

Lumar made good on that outstanding payment on June 6, more than two months prior to his arrest, but the Lee County warrant was inexplicably never canceled.

He owed a remaining $24 of the $673 he owed Lee County at the time of his arrest.

Such traffic violation warrant arrests are a bondable offense, meaning that Lumar should have been able to pay $50 on the $500 bond to be released from police custody. But the lawsuit claims that Chicago police concealed the fact that he could have bonded out of jail.

Lumar had $130 on his person at the time of his arrest, enough to pay the bond, but police told him that the traffic warrant was a nonbondable offense and he would have to remain in custody in the 11th District station, according to the lawsuit.

Alcorn's lawsuit claims that Chicago police charged Lumar with a so-called Class Z nonbondable offense "even though [they] knew that the Lee County traffic warrant arose out of a Class A Misdemeanor charge."

Chicago police intentionally, wrongfully detained Lumar for the traffic offense, the lawsuit claims.

Lumar also was deprived of his 14th Amendment rights, protecting him against racial discrimination, according to the lawsuit.

"Similarly situated white arrestees (those arrested in Cook County on out-of-county warrants) were not required to appear in bond court. Instead, similarly situated white arrestees who had the means to bond themselves out (either because they had the requisite monies on their persons or if another person provided the monies to bond themselves out) were allowed to bond themselves out directly from the Chicago Police Department lockups, including but not limited to the 11th District," the lawsuit notes.

O'Connor states in the lawsuit "a widespread practice" within the Chicago Police Department of selectively enforcing an administrative order (GAO No. 2015-06) that prevents detainees arrested on intrastate warrants issued outside of Cook County from bonding out.

This selective enforcement is almost exclusively enforced "against non-white arrestees/pretrial detainees, including but not limited to African Americans and Hispanics," according to the lawsuit.

 

Arrested again in lockup

While in police custody, Lumar suffered an asthma attack and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital for treatment.

He was searched for narcotics and contraband several times during the transfer and later returned to Cook County Jail and placed in a group lockup with 25 other prisoners.

At this point, Lumar had been searched as many as eight times for drugs since first being taken into custody, according to the lawsuit.

While sitting in Bullpen 23, video surveillance shows another detainee sitting next to Lumar remove a package from his shoe and stash it behind the bench upon which they were seated, according to the lawsuit. It was later revealed the package contained 12 individually wrapped packages of white rocks.

Lumar was later accused by a Cook County sheriff of being in possession of the drugs, even though he had been searched multiple times prior to the arrest.

The lawsuit claims the officer "wrongfully and knowingly falsified an incident report with the Cook County Sheriff's Office claiming that he recovered the contraband and/or narcotics from Tyler Lumar's person while processing new pretrial detainees."

The officer also allegedly indicated in the report that the incident was not captured by video surveillance, according to the lawsuit

O'Connor said in a telephone interview that the claim is demonstrably false and the video surveillance clearly shows the package was discarded by another detainee and not found on Lumar.

She said a protective order prevents her from distributing the surveillance video outside of a court hearing. Police never formally charged him with possession of narcotics.

 

Jailed without supervision

The day Lumar was accused of narcotics possession, he attempted to hang himself in his jail cell, an event that never should have been possible because police are required to check inmates every 15 minutes.

But that didn't happen, according to the lawsuit.

O'Connor states that detention aides falsified reports on Aug. 19, to show they did visually check the jail cells every 15 minutes, although Lumar was discovered only after another detainee called them over.

The lawsuit notes that officers "heard loud audible banging noises at Lumar's cell, yet failed to respond, even though they knew Lumar was a danger to himself and that the banging was the sound of Lumar inflicting injury upon himself."

Officers failed to "take the appropriate steps to protect him, including failing to monitor and supervise him," the lawsuit claims.

 

A 'tragedy' based on race

O'Connor told Wednesday Journal that Lumar was discriminated against because of his race.

She said law enforcement officials across the board failed to step in and acknowledge that Lumar never should have been arrested and detained for a faulty warrant based on a traffic violation. They should have known he could have bonded out of police custody; they should have known the drugs weren't his; they should have known he was a risk to himself, O'Connor said.

"I think you can sum this up as a civil and moral tragedy," O'Connor said. "He was denied his 4th Amendment right to be free from unlawful arrest."

O'Connor reiterated the role Lumar's race played in how he was treated by police.

"Everyone knew this was a traffic citation," she said. "I believe he was unlawfully held based on his race."

Lumar's mother is suing for punitive and compensatory damages — while hospitalized, Lumar racked up more than $2 million in medical bills — and attorneys' fees.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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