Federal lawsuit alleges Chicago police didn’t help prevent military veteran’s suicide in custody

By Mark Guarino
February 22, 2022 at 5:03 p.m. EST

A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that Chicago police officers did not prevent an Army veteran from dying by suicide while in their custody in December.

While handcuffed in a holding cell, Irene Chavez repeatedly told officers that she was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and needed to see a therapist. Forty-five minutes later, she was found dead.

The case names the city of Chicago and 10 police officers and supervisors who were on site when Chavez, 33, died on Dec. 18.

The case is being framed as a systemic failure by police to seriously respond to mental health crises. Sheila Bedi, the director of the Community Justice and Civil Rights Clinic at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and an attorney who is leading the legal team, said the case is consistent with a “long-standing pattern of Chicago Police ignoring people with mental health issues and often those same cases lead to death or serious injuries.” The department’s policy requires officers to take people with suspected mental health issues “to the nearest mental health intake facility for an evaluation.”

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