The family of a man who died last August after being apprehended by police for a traffic violation has filed a misconduct lawsuit against the Oak Park and Forest Park police departments.
Filed July 19 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the complaint alleges that 27-year-old Dajuan Gates exhibited multiple symptoms of an obvious medical emergency while being detained but police sought no medical attention despite being within 60 feet of the emergency room at Rush Oak Park Hospital, allegedly resulting in his preventable death.
“It is the primary responsibility of a police officer to protect the wellbeing of the citizens in custody,” said attorney Dan Kotin, of Tomasik, Kotin, Kasserman LLC, the firm representing Gates’ family.
Kotin told Wednesday Journal, Gates was suffering from hyperthermia caused by an overdose of PCP combined with the agitation of being detained, which resulted in his overheating.
“Then over the course of 20 minutes, his organs began to shut down,” said Kotin.
Representatives from the two police departments provided little in the way of comment but shared that neither department was aware of the filing.
“We have not been served as of yet, which means our attorney has not reviewed the lawsuit,” said Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas. “For those reasons as well as the fact that the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit has not completed their investigation I can’t comment at this time.”
Oak Park spokesman David Powers said the village could not comment on matters relating to pending litigation as a matter of policy.
The police incident in question occurred the afternoon of Aug. 22, 2020 when a Forest Park police officer pursued Gates at approximately 4:12 p.m. after observing him drive through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop, according to the complaint.
“Then Dajuan made his only mistake, which was being afraid of police, and he ran,” Kotin said.
Eight minutes later, Gates was handcuffed for the traffic violation by an Oak Park police officer, the complaint states, with his arms behind his back on the southwest corner of Madison Street and Maple Avenue in Oak Park. He remained in that position for the next 21 minutes according to Kotin.
Between “4:20 and 4:22 p.m., while in control of Oak Park and/or Forest Park police officers, Dajuan Gates became unresponsive, and could not stand or sit up,” the complaint reads.
Instead of taking him to the emergency room, the complaint states officers put Gates in the back of a Forest Park police vehicle, ignored his condition and taunted him, saying, “Don’t play these dramatic games,” and, “You’re being a pain in the ass.”
“Everything that’s in the complaint is verifiable down to the minute based on the dashcam,” Kotin said.
At 4:27 p.m., a Forest Park officer drove an unresponsive and handcuffed Gates approximately 60 feet into the driveway of the Rush Oak Park Hospital Emergency Department, according to the complaint, which stated that Gates’ speech was incomprehensible and slurred and he was unable to lift his head or sit upright.
The complaint argues that paramedics arrived to assess Gates at 4:41 p.m., but earlier medical intervention would have saved his life.
“Paramedics will testify that by the time they got to Dajuan, he was essentially brain dead in the back of the car in full cardiac arrest,” Kotin said.
Gates was put on life support but died the following day, leaving behind five children, the youngest of which had not yet been born. His family is seeking in excess of $50,000 in damages from the two police departments, but Kotin said his firm believes the damages are worth far more.
“Hopefully, the lawsuit will provide some accountability for what happened and offer some compensation for these kids because there’s nothing else that our system can do to help right a wrong.”