Cash-strapped Chicago will spend $4.5 million to compensate the family of a 34-year-old West Side rapper shot to death by police during an apparent traffic stop in 2007.
The settlement, expected to be approved by the City Council’s Finance Committee Monday, will go to the estate of Freddie Latrice Wilson, who performed as “The Saint.”
Wilson served time in prison, then rapped and preached about the devastating impact of bad decisions upon his release in hopes of steering other young men straight.
On Nov. 13, 2007, Wilson was stopped by police in the 100 block of North Lorel in the West Side’s Austin neighborhood.
In a lawsuit filed against the city, Wilson’s mother claimed that four unknown officers had approached her son and fired 20 shots and that the officers “had no reason to threaten [him] with a gun and open fire upon him, killing him.”
Juanita Wilson’s lawsuit was one of three filed by members of the slain rapper’s family.
In another lawsuit, the mother of Freddie Wilson’s son claimed the rapper had his arms raised and was unarmed when he was gunned down. The mother of another of Wilson’s children also filed suit against the city.
The so-called “heater” case was the first to land at Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority after then-Mayor Richard M. Daley ordered an overhaul and a name change to restore public confidence in the agency charged with investigating police-involved shootings and other instances of excessive force.
IPRA’s then-chief administrator Ilana Rosenzweig said at the time that Wilson’s Cadillac was stopped for a traffic violation by two uniformed officers who were subsequently joined by two others.
Three of the four officers opened fire on Wilson and a weapon was recovered from the ground outside the car, Rosenzweig said then.
But she declined to comment on whether Wilson had pointed the gun at officers. She was also uncertain whether the rapper was still behind the wheel or outside the vehicle when he was shot.
At the time of the shooting, neighbors and witnesses gave conflicting accounts.
Some questioned whether the confrontation had begun as a traffic stop at all. They noted that Wilson’s Cadillac had been parked for hours in the same location near an alley.
They suspected he might have been getting into his car when the shooting occurred after recording music at a friend’s apartment on Lorel.
Another witness claimed to have seen police officers on foot and in cruisers chasing two men through an alley. That witness claimed officers might have mistaken Wilson for one of the men involved in the police chase.
One year later, Wilson’s frustrated family led a delegation to IPRA’s headquarters demanding to know why the investigation had not been brought to a conclusion. Rosenzweig blamed staff shortages and difficulty getting cooperation from witnesses.
The Finance Committee’s agenda names three Chicago Police Officers as defendants in the case: Jason Santiago, Tomslav Vidljinevic and Guadalupe DeLeon.
It was not know whether any of the three officers faced disciplinary action in connection with the Wilson shooting.
After serving three stints in prison, Wilson was trying to turn his life around and had become somewhat of a musical role model for young African-American men struggling with the lure of the streets.
A former student at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, Wilson wrote rap lyrics that encouraged young men to the make the right choices and get involved in their neighborhoods. He carried the same message to those he ran into on the street.
The $4.5 million settlement is the latest in a string of police abuse cases settled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Last fall, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Emanuel had shelled out $169 million to settle lawsuits against the city — $77.4 million of it in 2013 alone — nearly triple the amount paid by cash-strapped Chicago during the final two years of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration.
Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton attributed the spike at a time when the city can least afford it to two factors: Daley’s decision to “put the brakes” on settlements and Emanuel’s desire to cut the city’s losses and settle early cases taxpayers were destined to lose.
“When the mayor took office, we had a very large backlog of cases, most of which had been pending for a long time, and a number of which were very serious exposures,” Patton said then, noting that Emanuel inherited 1,000 police cases alone.
“We’re settling cases we inherited. . . . In addition, we’ve accelerated the recognition of liability. So, we’re getting it on both ends. We’re clearing a lot of brush and bad things away from the past and doing something that will save money over the longer haul. But it’s not saving us money short-term.”