The lawsuit alleges that Chicago police arrested a 65-year-old man after receiving a ShotSpotter alert, keeping him in jail for a year before prosecutors dismissed the case for lack of other evidence.
A federal lawsuit alleges that the Chicago Police Department misused “unreliable” gunshot detection technology to investigate a murder, later charging an innocent grandfather for the crime.
According to The Associated Press, Chicago prosecutors cited audio feeds recorded by gunshot detection company ShotSpotter to indict Michael Williams for the 2020 homicide of a man murdered inside a parked car.
Williams spent nearly a year in jail awaiting trial until the judge dismissed the case after prosecutors admitted they have insufficient evidence to pursue a conviction.
Now, William shas filed a formal complaint against the City.
In the lawsuit, Williams’ attorneys from the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University’s law school are seeking damages for mental anguish, loss of income, and paid legal expenses.
Williams, now 65, said that he still suffers from hand tremors he developed behind bars.
The lawsuit also details the claims of a second plaintiff, 36-year-old Daniel Ortiz, who was arbitrarily arrested and investigated by law enforcement responding to another ShotSpotter alert.
The complaint, notes The Associated Press, is seeking class action certification for any Chicago resident who was been stopped or detain on the basis of ShotSpotter reports. It is also seeking a court order barring the continued use of ShotSpotter technologies.
“Even though now I’m so-called free, I don’t think that I will ever be free of the thought of what they have done and the impact that has on me now, like the shaking with my hand,” Williams said in a statement. “I constantly go back to the thought of being in that place […] I just can’t get my mind to settle down.”
Interestingly, ShotSpotter is not named as a defendant in the 103-page complaint, even though the plaintiffs’ attorneys say the program is inherently flawed.
Instead, the lawsuit suggests that Chicago police officers “put blind faith in ShotSpotter evidence they knew or should have known was unreliable.”
The lawsuit alleges that area law enforcement have tried to use ShotSpotter material in a way that went beyond the technology’s intended use, including a policy disclaimer that ShotSpotter “should only be used for initial investigative purposes.”
Attorneys for Williams and Diaz also say that investigators did not pursue other credible leads, instead focusing their full attention on the plaintiffs without any other evidence that they could have been involved in the crimes.
“The Defendant Officers engaged in tunnel vision to target Mr. Williams, arresting him for First-Degree murder, without probable cause,” the lawsuit said.