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The village has agreed to pay $38,000 to settle another federal lawsuit against the village and six Forest Park police, according to an agreement obtained by the Forest Park Review through a Freedom of Information Act request. This is at least the third lawsuit against police the village has settled since October of 2017, with total settlement costs now totaling at least $233,900. Three other cases are pending in U.S. District Court, all alleging excessive force by Forest Park police.

“Neither this release nor any of its terms, conditions or provisions constitute an admission of liability of wrongdoing on the part of any of the parties,” reads the settlement agreement between the village and plaintiff Trumell Lee.

Lee filed the lawsuit in November of 2017 in U.S. District Court – Northern District Illinois.

In the early morning of Nov. 3, 2017, police responded to a call that Lee and friends were fighting at the intersection of Circle Avenue and Jackson Boulevard, according to a police report filed at that time. Officers looked up Lee’s name in their internal database and found he had an active warrant from DuPage County for failing to appear in court about a DUI charge, according to the police report.

Forest Park Officer Nicholas Defors began screaming that Lee was going to jail, according to the lawsuit. Lee reportedly placed his hands behind his back and waited to be handcuffed. Defors put the handcuffs on Lee, then allegedly put him in a chokehold from behind, according to the complaint. The police report said the officer was trying to search Lee.

Lee blacked out and, when he came to, found himself on his knees on the pavement, according to the suit. Police transported him to the police station, booked him on the warrant and charged him with resisting arrest and illegal transportation of alcohol, the police report said. The department later decided not to prosecute the charges against Lee, and opened an Internal Affairs Division investigation into Defors’ conduct, according to the lawsuit.

Once Lee was released, he visited a hospital emergency room, the complaint said.

Unlike at least two previous settlement agreements that have been discussed publicly in Forest Park Village Council meetings, the agreement between Lee and the village was completed privately on June 25. Police Chief Thomas Aftanas said he didn’t know why the agreement wasn’t discussed at a council meeting, noting that settlements are usually discussed in closed session. Village Administrator Tim Gillian did not respond to an interview request.

Officers DeFors, Nicholas Diano, Jose Flores, Donald Bolton, Josh Jennett and Robert Kendall were named as defendants. Payment includes attorneys’ fees and court costs, and the agreement did not say the village’s insurer covered the cost. Lee had until Aug. 1 to dismiss his complaint.

Meanwhile, there are three other cases pending in U.S. District Court alleging excessive force by Forest Park police.

In February 2018, the family of Marco Gomez alleged that Forest Park police fatally shot Gomez “without cause or provocation” after they caught him in a stolen car the year before. The same month, plaintiff Giovanni LaGioia filed a federal lawsuit alleging a local police officer roughly searched him during a traffic stop in December 2017.

In June 2017, a Forest Park man alleged that a Forest Park police officer knocked his teeth out during a 2015 incident. The village has a settlement conference for this incident scheduled in court on Aug. 14.

“The parties believe that with the Court’s assistance, a settlement may be feasible,” reads an action filed by the plaintiff on Aug. 7. 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com