Family of Unarmed Shooting Victim Wins $5.1 Million after Police Plant Gun
An Illinois jury awarded nearly $5.1 million on Thursday to the family of 37-year-old Gary Smith, who was fatally shot by Chicago police officer Arkadiusz Pachnik in 2014.
Eyewitnesses, including Smith's girlfriend, say Smith had his hands up and was unarmed when Pachnik shot him multiples times.
Police contend Smith had a gun.
But after hearing both sides of the story, a Cook County jury ordered the City of Chicago to pay Smith's family exactly $5.097 million in damages on March 21 last week, according to Fox32.
The jury delivered the verdict after hearing about four weeks of evidence presented by both sides.
"They covered things up. My brother and I are so grateful that the jury saw through the lies,” said Smith's daughter Dasha Davis, who says she still misses her father every day.
It happened on Mother's Day 2014 when Smith was among a group of about 15 people when a police car rolled up.
As the group dispersed, police claim they saw Smith holding a gun before shots were fired.
Smith died after being struck multiple times.
Witnesses disagreed with the police's claim, and insist Smith actually raised his empty hands above his head before he was shot.
Irene Dymkar, the attorney for Smith's family, says the gun, a Glock police claim to have recovered from the scene, was planted there by the police.
"There was not an adequate chain of custody. No hard evidence of the gun until it appears in a picture taken by the forensic team in a trunk three hours later," she said.
"The police officers, their story just didn't hold up under cross examination,” Torri Hamilton, another attorney for Smith's family, said.
The spokesman for the city's law department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city is considering its options, which may include an appeal, after being disappointed by the verdict.
"Far from being an example of justice, this case only serves as another example that the Cook County justice system is on life support," a police union spokesman said.
Smith's death occurred in May 2014, just five months before Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, which put the Chicago police department under nation-wide scrutiny for the way it handles shooting investigations involving its officers.
Documents from court filings show lawyers for Smith's family point out that Pachnik testified in a deposition saying he did not see a gun before shooting Smith.
Pachnik testified he opened fire after his partner warned him Smith had a gun and because he his movements implied he had a gun.
"[The] movements when he was running implied he had a gun to me," he said in a deposition.
Smith's family's lawyers also allege police on the scene intentionally covered up for Pachnik, citing the fact that police never canvassed the area for witnesses even though dozens observed the incident.
They also point out that Smith's fingerprints were never found on the gun, and no other evidence — other than a photo taken by police three hours after the shooting — linked Smith to the gun.
"The first hard evidence of that gun is when it appears about three hours after the shooting in the trunk of a (police) car," Dymkar said.
"It’s just thrown in the back with a lot of junk in the trunk, and they claimed that that was the gun that they found at the scene."
Lawyers for the Smith family also point out that a suspiciously large amount of evidence was missing including dash cam footage from an officer's patrol car that was manually shut of as it recorded Pachnik walking away from Smith body while only holding one gun in his hand.
GPS data and video from other police cars were missing and the Chicago Police Department could not provide the Smith family's lawyers with any communications between police and dispatchers during the time of the shooting.
In a statement after the verdict, the family thanked the jury for bringing them justice.
"Bringing my father back, it will never happen. But we are thankful the jury seen the truth and we have justice,” Davis told reporters.
Currently, the three officers named in Smith's family's lawsuit, Arkadiusz Pachnik, Shikema Teague and Jonathan Elarde, all remain on the force, according to Chicago Reporter database.
Pachnik and Teague were linked to other misconducts lawsuits previously paid out by the city.