The family of Dajuan Gates, 27, a Chicago man who died while he may have been in custody of the Forest Park Police Department, has hired attorney Philip Terrazzino of the Chicago law firm Tomasik, Kotin, Kasserman, LLC. The services of attorney S. Lee Merritt from the firm McEldrew, Young, Purtell, Merritt has also been retained.
Gates died on Aug. 23 in the hospital, autopsy results still pending, after he ran a stop sign in Forest Park and police attempted to stop him. He ran another stop sign, then vacated the car and fled on foot into Oak Park, where he was stopped by Oak Park police, who turned him over to Forest Park police at the corner of Madison Street and Maple Avenue.
Terrazzino told the Review that no lawsuit has been filed, and right now the firm is investigating evidence, including video, to put together a timeline of the events that led to Gates’ death.
“The one thing we know is he died in police custody,” Terrazzino said on Sept. 16. “We’re in the investigation phase right now.”
The Illinois State Police Integrity Task Force’s statement on Sept. 17 contests this. Trooper Genelle Jones, public information officer for the Illinois State Police, which is investigating the matter, said it has been determined that “while being detained by the Forest Park Police Department” Gates “suffered from a medical emergency.”
He was transported to a local hospital, where he was admitted after being released on misdemeanor charges. The following day, he “succumbed to unknown injuries,” according to an email from Jones.
Following an Aug. 24 press release about the incident from the Forest Park Police Department, the Review was told that at the time of Gates’ death, Forest Park police officers had already fingerprinted Gates and had released him from custody, removing the guard outside his hospital room.
In reporting the incident, Forest Park police termed Gates’ death as an “in-custody death,” even though they also stated he had been released from custody.
During the arrest, which happened in front of the Rush Oak Park Hospital emergency room, Gates began to lose consciousness, and police reportedly administered the opioid antidote Narcan and “sternum rubs” to Gates.
Tenell Coleman, Gates’ fianceé, told the Review she doesn’t understand why police did “absolutely nothing to get him inside the hospital.” She said there were multiple officers who could have walked him into the emergency room. But instead they administered NARCAN and called paramedics.
“He was already on hospital grounds,” said Coleman. “They let him die and they didn’t care.”
In many police departments, including Forest Park’s, officers aren’t allowed to transport injured to the hospital themselves; by procedure, they must call paramedics, who are trained to do so.
But Coleman’s desire is to see the officers responsible “off the force until this is figured out.”
“What if this same thing happens to someone else?” she asked.
Gates’ death left four children without a father, two of them Coleman’s daughters, age 9 and 5. Coleman, who is three months pregnant, said she lost her own father at her daughter’s age, and she’s devastated that Gates’ children will have to grow up without a father.
“My 5-year-old cries all day long, walking around with his picture,” said Coleman, adding Gates was a troubled teenager but that he’s been on the right path for four years, with a good job and about to start school to become an electrician.
“It’s not right,” Coleman said. “Police think they can get away with anything.”
The events leading up to Gates’ arrest occurred on Aug. 22. According to the Forest Park police report of the incident, he was driving westbound on the 7200 block of Adams Street in Forest Park sometime after 4 p.m. An officer reported observing Gates’ vehicle fail to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Adams Street and Marengo Avenue.
The officer attempted to curb Gates’ vehicle, but he reportedly did not stop, ran another stop sign and drove his vehicle up over the curb and onto the parkway in the 500 block of Circle Avenue where it came to rest against a couch left there for garbage removal.
Gates exited the driver’s side of the vehicle as it was still rolling to a stop, according to the police report. He reportedly ran through the side yard of a house on the block, pushing a witness who was in the yard out of the way. He attempted to jump a fence, according to police, then forced the gate open and exited that way instead.
The officer returned to Gates’ car and located his wallet. An unknown motorist stopped the officer as he was inventorying the vehicle to say a firearm was lying next to the patrol vehicle. The officer reported retrieving the gun.
According to the police report, Oak Park police observed a man meeting Gates’ description near Madison Street and Maple Avenue in Oak Park and detained him. He was positively identified by the Forest Park police officer.
Forest Park police attempted to place Gates, who was handcuffed, in the back of the squad car. Gates sat on the edge of the seat but wouldn’t fully enter the car, according to the report.
“Gates appeared tired but answered questions about his name,” wrote the officer in his report. Gates was offered water “as he appeared to be tired from running from officers.”
An officer requested Gates be held at the scene so the witness whose yard he ran through could be brought to identify him.
After the identification, Gates once again didn’t want to get into the vehicle, though he was sitting on the edge of the seat, police reported. At this point, according to the police report, he “seemed to be becoming somewhat despondent.”
The officer told Gates he needed to get into the vehicle so he could be brought to the police station and given food and water “to help recover from his exhaustion.”
“Gates then became less communicative, which is when I requested Forest Park paramedics #408 to give medical treatment to Gates,” reads the police report. “Gates’ demeanor and physical condition became that of someone who had consumed narcotics. … Gates’ concentration began to fade, he was nodding in and out of consciousness, and began to have more labored breathing.”
The officer, waiting for paramedics to arrive, administered one dose of Narcan. Gates responded by opening his eyes widely and taking a deep, audible breath. Police reported administering a second dose of Narcan, but Gates “did not appear to fully regain consciousness.” He was given sternum rubs and officers kept talking to him in an attempt to keep him awake and conscious.
Oak Park paramedics arrived and began to administer medical treatment while transporting him to Rush Oak Park Hospital.
Gates died the next day in the hospital. His autopsy report was still pending as of Sept. 21 at noon.
The village of Forest Park issued a statement from Village Administrator Tim Gillian’s office on Sept. 22. It reads: “At this time, the Village of Forest Park and the Forest Park Police Department have no further comment regarding the matter of the deceased, Mr. Dajuan Gates. As made public earlier, the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force is conducting a comprehensive investigation into the matter, concurrent with a Forest Park Police Department internal investigation. As we are aware, the village is not party to any lawsuits related to this matter at this time. Due to the nature of the incident and to maintain the integrity of those concurrent investigations, more information will be provided as soon as legally possible.”