Off-duty Chicago cop Joseph Cabrera allegedly attacked a man for parking on a public street.
A Chicago man who was violently assaulted by an off-duty police officer has filed lawsuit against the perpetrator and several of his colleagues.
Filed by Esael Morales, the lawsuit accuses Chicago Police Officer Joseph Cabrera of excessive force. It also claims that the unidentified, on-duty officers who responded to the call acted unreasonably, searching Morales and seizing his possessions without probable cause.
The City of Chicago is also named as a defendant.
According to The Chicago Tribune, Morales filed suit two days after Cabrera was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm and disorderly conduct.
Cabrera, notes the Tribune¸ was likely intoxicated during his confrontation with Morales. In an attempt to intimidate or injure Morales, Cabrera—at one point—fired his service weapon.
Afterwards, Cabrera reportedly lied about the events to preserve both his freedom and professional integrity.
The Tribune reports that body camera footage sheds some light onto what happened.
The videos, says the Tribune, show police responding to an emergency call in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood. Both Cabrera and Morales are visible from the end of the street.
When officers approached, Cabrera could be seen standing on the street, a handgun tucked into his waistband. He immediately identified himself as law enforcement before providing his badge and relinquishing his handgun.
“Nobody shot at me,” Cabrera told the responding officers. “He started attacking me, I […] fired a round.”
“I don’t know,” he added, “I’m pretty upset right now.”
Cabrera then claimed he had seen Morales and his girlfriend blow a stop sign, after which he confronted the couple and asked if they were in need of assistance.
Officers then began to issue orders to Morales, who had drifted away from the scene.
“I didn’t do anything, officer, he shot at me,” Morales said. “Why are you putting me in handcuffs? He shot at me!”
Cabrera’s colleagues then said they were simply trying to figure out what had happened.
However, Morales’s lawsuit provides a different account: in court documents, Morales states he and his girlfriend had been parked on a city street near the latter’s home. Some time later, Cabrera pulled up behind them, activated his vehicle’s high beams, and began revving his engine.
Cabrera eventually got out of his car, walked to the passenger side door of Morales’s vehicle, and asked what the couple were doing.
“Cabrera did not believe that Morales and his girlfriend had a right to be parked on the public street that night near where Cabrera lives,” the lawsuit says.
After a brief confrontation, Cabrera brandished a firearm—he aimed and shot towards Morales’s legs, but missed. Morales’s girlfriend, meanwhile, fled the scene.
While Cabrera called 911 after the incident and admitted to firing his gun, he “falsely claimed” that Morales had knocked him to the ground beforehand—a version of events contested by Morales, his girlfriend, as well as a passerby who had been walking a dog nearby.
The lawsuit accuses the responding officers of negligence, saying they should have known that Cabrera was clearly intoxicated. Despite Cabrera allegedly reeking of alcohol, the responding officers waited four hours before testing him for intoxication—by which time Cabrera’s blood-alcohol content level had dropped to 0.104%, still above the Illinois limit for operating a motor vehicle.
Although Morales was never charged with a crime, his lawsuit asserts that the other officers detained him overnight. He was placed in a cell, repeatedly interrogated, and coerced to make statements that would portray Cabrera in a favorable light.
“Unidentified officers interrogated Morales, pressuring him to change his story to say things that might help their fellow officer, Defendant Cabrera” the lawsuit states. “Throughout the police ‘investigation’ that night and the next day, unidentified officers treated both Morales and Cabrera differently than they would have if Cabrera was not a Chicago police officer.”
Cabrera will be represented in litigation by the taxpayer-funded Chicago Law Department.