Chicago, IL — 14-year-old Pedro Rios was walking down the street on the night of July 4th, 2014 when he crossed paths with a Chicago police cruiser. According to reports, police spotted an object protruding from the boy's waistband. Prior to police attempting to stop Rios, he was not suspected of committing any crime.
Shortly after they tried to stop him, police would kill Rios. Rios was pronounced dead at 10:07 p.m. on the scene, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. However, an autopsy would later reveal that the two wounds were in the boys back, with an upward trajectory; suggesting that the boy was lying face down on the ground when he was killed.
Now, over 7 years after Rios was gunned down in his neighborhood, the family was set to go to trial in their lawsuit against the city. Over the weekend, however, the city decided to settle and Rios' family will receive a $1.2 million settlement from the taxpayers of Chicago.
The incident happened outside of a surveillance supply company and was caught on many of the company's cameras. However, that video remains sealed under a protective order.
Officers Nicholas Redelsperger and Eric Bellomy tried to stop Rios because “they thought it looked suspicious,” Mark Brown, an attorney for the Rios family, said.
“If you are in possession of a gun and it’s in your waist belt and you’re running away from the police, the police don’t have a right to shoot you in the back unless you threaten them with the gun,” he said to the Chicago Sun Times.
“If they see it in your hand and you turn toward them and don’t follow instructions to put it down or you raise it up toward them, then there is a reason to use deadly force. But there’s also surveillance video in this case from a nearby building that’s under ... a protective order that shows him running away as fast as he can. We believe it shows that the gun was in his waistband.”
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“It is our position that, while he did have a gun in his possession, he never pulled it from his waistband, and, as he was running away, the officer shot him in the back, knocking him to the ground,” Brown said. “And, as he rolled on the ground, shot him again around the hip area, which ended up in his lung.”
In an eye-opening report by Truthout.com at the time, it was revealed that the boy's death was seemingly scrubbed from police statistics as well.
Initially, the Cook County Medical examiner's office ruled the death of the 8th grader a "homicide." But according to their current records, Rios' death was actually a "suicide."
Equally ominous is the fact that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) - a City of Chicago agency tasked with investigating police misconduct complaints and weapon discharge notifications - categorized the fatal shooting of Rios as "non-fatal" in its statistical report to the public.
Truthout found several contradictions in the case or Rios, which are listed below.
- Rios was shot twice in the back, and died of gunshot wounds from bullets with an upward course, raising the possibility that the 5-foot-4-inch youth on flat terrain was shot lying face down.
- With fatal wounds to both lungs, which would have severely and immediately impacted Rios' breathing - in the autopsy report reading of two separate critical care doctors specializing in pulmonary medicine - the teen was highly unlikely to have been able to run in multiple directions after being shot, as asserted by Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy in his public statement.
- Charged with assault of a police officer postmortem, Rios was handcuffed and died in police custody, an "extraordinary occurrence" in Illinois penal and law enforcement terminology.
- At the Cook County Medical Examiner's office, Rios' parents identified their son via photograph. According to a spokesperson, the identification method was in line with office policy. But, Laura Rios and Pedro Rios Sr. described being given no information as to why they could not see their son's body, despite asking a Cook County interpreter for explanation.
- A copy of the child's death certificate, authorized by the medical examiner, lists "suicide" as the manner of death while the autopsy report, performed by the same medical examiner's office lists "homicide." A Cook County spokesperson acknowledged the mistake and reported its correction in the state's vital records database.
"I need Pedro but he's gone. It is as if his life didn't even count, as if he was trash," Laura Rios, Pedro's mother told Truthout. "That hurts so much as a parent."