28-year-old Northwestern University doctoral graduate Lawrence Crosby settled a lawsuit with the city of Evanston this week for $1.25 million. In 2015 Crosby was beat by cops in Evanston, Illinois after he was accused of stealing what turned out to be his own car.
Attorneys for Crosby confirmed the settlement amount. Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz confirmed a settlement had been reached.
In October 2015 a white woman called Evanston police and told them she was watching a black man steal a car. She followed Crosby in her own car, telling dispatchers of Crosby’s location. It turned out that Crosby was making a repair to his own car before he drove away, ABC Chicago reports.
At the time Crosby was an engineering doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, Crosby was driving from his apartment to the science building on campus when police arrested him, according to his attorney, Timothy Touhy.
In her 911 call to police, the woman acknowledges that she may have made a mistake by calling the police on Crosby and, if that was the case, asked officers to apologize for her.
Describing the moment, Crosby explains what went through his mind, additionally explaining implicit bias:
“I thought of all these other incidents I heard of in the media, black men and women who had been shot and killed in their cars. I didn’t know about implicit bias either until I’d gone through this, I would like to bring attention to the issue of implicit bias and how it can influence people’s decision making, in particular important decisions. Especially with someone whose life hangs in the balance.”
In the moment, Crosby said he wondered if he might be the next victim. Experts describe implicit bias as attitudes or stereotypes that unconsciously influence an individual’s actions or understanding of a person or situation.
Police conducted a traffic stop on Crosby. Police ordered Crosby out of his car with his hands up, which can be see on dash-cam video of the incident. Crosby complied. Officers approached Crosby with guns drawn.
It was then that police ordered Crosby to get down and when he did not quickly comply, a group of officers rushed him and brought him to the ground. Crosby said that officers hit and kneed him.
Crosby was arrested and charged with disobeying officers and resisting arrest, even after officers learned the car belonged to him. A judge later dismissed the charges.
At the time, an Evanston Police Department spokesman said the use of force by police was justified as officers were responding to what they thought was an auto theft. The spokesman said officers delivered knee strikes and open-handed strikes to major muscle groups, as trained. He said Crosby later told officers the reason he hadn’t immediately complied with their instructions was that he had been trying to move to the front of his car so that any ensuing interaction would be captured on his dashboard camera.
Crosby’s civil lawsuit, filed Oct. 11, 2016, in Cook County Circuit Court, cited false arrest and excessive force, and asked the city of Evanston and the arresting police officers to pay at least $50,000 for “compensatory and punitive damages, fees, costs and such other relief.”
Crosby said he realizes police officers have a difficult and stressful job. More than the traffic stop, though, he was bothered by the city’s decision to press charges against him after officers realized that he owned the car and they’d made a mistake in pulling him over.
In Crosby's own words:
“Instead of apologizing when they had an opportunity to do that, when they ascertained that I was the owner of the vehicle, even that would have ended the rest of the night. It would have been somewhat traumatic still, but the actions they took after that were the most egregious to me. They knew that I owned the car, they made a mistake, and they decided to persist in prosecuting these crimes that they knew I didn’t commit.”
Crosby has moved out of Evanston and declined to say what his future career plans will be.
Meanwhile, Crosby said, one of his first steps in addressing implicit bias is hosting a forum on the topic this spring for students and faculty at Stanford University where he earned his undergraduate degree.