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Family of Handcuffed 13-Year-Old Sues City, Officer

Ava Thompson Greenwell filed the suit Sunday claiming the officer and city assaulted and wrongly imprisoned her 13-year-old son, who is black, while looking for a black burglary suspect in their predominantly white neighborhood.

The mother of a black 13-year-old boy who was handcuffed in his front yard by an Evanston police officer who was looking for a black burglary subject is suing both the officer and the city for assault and false imprisonment, among other counts.

Diwani Greenwell was riding his bike to his Kirk Street home when he was detained by police who were searching for a suspect in a burglary that had just taken place nearby.  This happened, “although the police radio dispatch transmissions show that (he) did not fit the description of the black male sought; especially that [he] by his appearance is noticeably a child,” the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, says.

Related: Black parents say police misconduct common for their children

The lawsuit was filed Sunday by Diwani’s mother, Northwestern University Professor Ava Thompson Greenwell, who witnessed her son being handcuffed. According to the court papers, Diwani is an honor student with no criminal history.

Eric Palmer, spokesman for the city of Evanston, declined to discuss the case.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” he said.           

Christopher Cooper, the lawyer representing the family, said the family’s goal in filing the suit is to cause a change in protocol when police are interacting with people, particularly with children, and to improve training for officers in similar situations.

The suit names Mark Buell as the officer who handcuffed Diwani. It states that: “Even after realizing that he (Defendant Buell) had seized the wrong person, and had a child against the police car in handcuffs; and that Officer Buell now had knowledge that the child lived in the house to which the driveway was part, Defendant Buell would not remove the handcuffs.”

The lawsuit alleges four counts against Buell: unreasonable search and seizure, assault, false imprisonment and violations of the Illinois constitution. Against the City of Evanston, it claims assault, false imprisonment, violations of the Illinois constitution and failure to supervise and train.

For each count, the suit asks for $1 plus legal fees and “other relief deemed to be just and equitable.”

The suit also includes comments and photos from what it says is Buell’s Facebook account. These include comments, according to the court papers, such as “When you need a cracker at your next party, see if I show up…” and a photo of what looks like a child or a child-sized doll hanging from the inside roof of a squad car.

Thompson previously filed a complaint with the Evanston Police Department, alleging that officers mishandled the incident and relied on racial profiling when they arrested her son. The burglary suspect was described as wearing “khaki cargo shorts,” while her son was wearing navy blue cargo shorts that day, according to Greenwell. She believes police saw a black kid in a predominantly white neighborhood and disregarded the fact that the description did not exactly match up. 

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Festus McMoron September 25, 2012 at 12:13 AM
...i'm confused, they claim "racial profiling" when the description of the suspect was a 'black male'. how is that racial profiling? what's this ladies point? because he had a different color pair of shorts on? get over it. life goes on. people today are so pickey.
annie September 25, 2012 at 12:44 AM
kids get handcuffed all the time...regardless of the color of their skin. While her child might be a great kid and all, and it is an unfortunate something in his life, I would love to know about 3 years from now, if he ever gets in real trouble. And because juvenile records are not released to the general public, we won't know. Teenagers --- most of them do something stupid and it usually involves the police.
Debirag September 25, 2012 at 04:02 AM
From the descriptions of his facebook pages, this officer sounds like a white supremacist and a possible sadist. I hope this lawsuit has a positive effect on the obvious socio-economic and racial stereotyping that has become a mainstay of Evanston disparity.
Jessica Obien September 25, 2012 at 04:42 AM
I stand behind her 100%! Finally someone is filing suit! I'm so tired of having to raisecmy black son to be afraid of the police. What kind of message does this send our children? Walking down the street being harassed by police. Its terrible
annie September 25, 2012 at 07:07 AM
Kids get talked to, handcuffed by the police everyday. White kids get questioned also. If the police officer who handcuffed the young man was black rather than white, would it there still be a lawsuit, or would be judged as a police officer simply doing his job, following procedures as set forth by the police dept? What if in fact, a kid committed a crime, had a gun in his pocket, the police picked him up, but didn't handcuff him, & then the kid shoots and kills innocent bystanders and the police officer? There are so many ways to look at things.
Festus McMoron September 25, 2012 at 12:03 PM
annie, you hit the nail on the head. this event should NOT even had made the news. it was a total nonevent that the family blew out of proportion. I'm surprised people aren't blaming the police for poor dajae coleman's senseless death. jessica obien, get you head out of the sand. try reading a police blotter and a description of the suspects. the message to your children is blasted over tv every night with all these senseless killings. theirs your message why don't you come up with the answer!!
Festus McMoron September 25, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Hi Festus McMoron, Connie Gillock commented on Family of Handcuffed 13-Year-Old Sues City, Officer, which you are following. "I am a 54 year old woman and I was also seriously injuried when a Evanston Police officer handcuffs me. The male police officer pushed me face down on my own front lawn. I am five feet tall. I plan to pursue a lawsuit against the officer. I was treated at Evanston hospital for my injuries." To respond view the comment on Patch. connie, why were the police even at your house? apparently there was some kind of disturbance. please elaborate. i'm dying to know.
annie September 25, 2012 at 01:42 PM
The whole thing just seems stupid and frivolous to me. I can't count the number of times, my kids, their friends have been stopped by the police and handcuffed. Sometimes they probably deserved to be stopped and other times they did not. Oh well. It had to be racial profiling. We are white.
Kim Badie September 25, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Call it picky until your child is the one handcuffed and leaned against a squad car because he might be the person they're searching for.
Festus McMoron September 25, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Kim Badie 8:43 am on Tuesday, September 25, 2012 Call it picky until your child is the one handcuffed and leaned against a squad car because he might be the person they're searching for. and kim, exactly how often does this happen? you people blow this so out of proportion it's ridiculous. you all act like it happens a dozen times a day. it probably happens twice a year and you all get up in arms. go find something else to complain about will ya.
annie September 25, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I think we need to focus our energy on other concerns here in e-town.
Festus McMoron September 25, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Robbery - strong arm 1600 BLK FOSTER 9/22/12 23:12 9/22/12 23:12 12- 026844 victim was knocked to the ground, kicked, and his property was taken from him Sidewalk CANNONDALE BICYCLE AND SAMSUNG CELL PHONE Offender Description: 2 Black/Males
Jennifer Lynn September 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Where on earth do you get that? What, specifically, makes him sound like a white supremacist and a sadist? It's wholly irresponsible to go flinging character assasinations about like that.
mij September 26, 2012 at 01:40 AM
If you read the various stories PATCH printed on this event. There are a number of unanswered questions. The mother was home, mother said the police didn't identify themselves as police. Mother stands and watches as total strangers handcuff her son. Mother watches it all from front door.
el debarge September 26, 2012 at 04:33 AM
Sorry--Can't suppress my opinion on this any longer. We are missing a lot of facts in this matter so the comments to this article are driven by as much speculation. I too will opine without the benefit FULL knowledge of the incident. As the burglar was not kind enough to leave his name, address, and physical stats with the victim, the police had to work from a description provided them by the victim via dispatch. The offender was identified as black male and wearing khaki cargo shorts. The police came upon a subject matching some of that description and rightfully detained him for questioning. Not exactly profiling here and most certainly not racial. Had the person been described as, say, a blonde haired female seemingly Scandinavian, then perhaps we have a "racial profiling" issue if Mr. Greenwell is detained. The police, in my opinion, were acting properly to question him. He matched a couple of identifiers put out in the description. Continued…
el debarge September 26, 2012 at 04:34 AM
None of us knows how Mr. Greenwell acted when confronted or what led the officer to place him in handcuffs. The fact that he lives in the neighborhood and happened to be in his driveway does not mean that he could not commit a crime. If he was physically abused or treated with excessive rudeness while being FULLY cooperative, let the suit go forward and fire the officer. Haven't heard any evidence to suggest that. The cops were making an effort to solve a hot call in Ms. Thompson Greenwell's neighborhood and she should be grateful. It could just as easily have been her property that was burglarized and I would think she would want every effort made to recover it. But no. The professor would rather turn this into a race issue. Has she perhaps been in contact with the Evanston Reverend who this summer charged Glencoe police with "racism" and "racial profiling" for issuing him a traffic citation when he admittedly broke the law? Folks, can we save this for something that is REALLY significant and not go all Sharpton up in here?
el debarge September 26, 2012 at 04:35 AM
And Ms. Obien, you'd have done your son a better service to teach him to respect, assist, and comply with the police. The City of Evanston must NOT settle this suit but rather defend vigorously against it if the facts show the cops followed reasonable protocol. Not ONE DOLLAR, not ONE PENNY, or "reasonable relief"
mij September 26, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Perhaps patch could also republish the Picture it had in a different article on this topic. That included the young man.
Eric Lieberman September 26, 2012 at 01:10 PM
No doubt it was traumatic for child and mother for this to happen. We all need to recognize that. However, based on my 32 years of legal practice, my opinion is that the case will be dismissed - unless something particularly severe and unusual happened in the course of the arrests. There is a murderer out there who killed Daejae Coleman in cold blood. That is the real danger lurking on our streets. Eric Lieberman www.liebermanforillinois.com

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