Judge to rule whether man's death was unlawful

The incident happened four years ago in Blue Island.

The judge is being asked to decide whether Blue Island officers had the right to use force to stop the senior citizen.-- even though officers concede the man committed no crime.

It is not unusual for police officers in the city or suburbs to be accused of using excessive force in dealing with the public. Some claims are legit, but many others are not.

This case is unique in that police concede the elderly man had done nothing wrong. Law enforcement officials everywhere will be watching to see if two officers can now be held liable for his death.

The Cook County Medical Examiner ruled Antonio Manrique's death a homicide. It led to protests and packed meetings at city hall in south suburban Blue Island. Even the local police chief calls Manrique's 2004 death an "absolute tragedy."

"Justice is all we want because we're not gonna get my dad back, but we want justice," the man's daughter said.

Friday, attorneys for Manrique's family asked a judge to waive the so-called "qualified immunity" normally afforded police officers and allow them to sue.

Manrique, and a friend in his 60's were walking home from a park one night when plain-clothed officers followed them in an unmarked car down an alley. The two men claim they thought they were about to be robbed, so they began to run. That's when, the lawsuit claims, Blue Island Police Officer Charles Sykes grabbed Manrique and threw him to the ground.

"It was a wrap-around tackle, chest first to the ground. When Mr. Manrique was thrown to the ground, slammed to the ground, he suffered several fractured ribs," said Tim Tomasik, attorney for the victim.

"He [Manrique] was not necessarily tackled by Officer Sykes but pushed down, and Officer Sykes fell on him. That's the extent of force used by Sykes," said John Furlan, the officers' attorney.

The 74-year-old man's fractured ribs led to blood clots that killed him.

But what led to the police interest in the senior citizen in the first place? The officers say they were ordered to investigate gang graffiti sprayed in the area the previous day.

In a deposition, Detective Sykes indicated he believed he had the right to tackle a citizen who does not comply with his commands, regardless of whether a crime had been committed.

"I didn't know at that time. I couldn't tell you. I couldn't say what crime in specific was about to be committed," Sykes is quoted as saying.

"Innocent people sometimes get stopped. And the law allows police officers to do that, stop them when they have a reasonable suspicion," Attorney Furlan said. "Only [using] force that's reasonable and necessary."

Detective Sykes now works for another Chicago area police department. His partner the day of incident remains on the force in Blue Island, where the police chief said Friday that he could not comment on the lawsuit.

A decision is expected in the next two weeks on whether the judge will allow this civil case to go to trial.

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