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.
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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.