Lawsuit Claims Des Plaines Police Punched, Kicked Handcuffed Man
Two Des Plaines police officers and the city are named in a complaint filed by a DuPage man.
A DuPage man is suing two Des Plaines police officers and the city for reportedly taking him to a parking garage, dragging him out of the squad car and beating him while he was handcuffed, according to court documents. The city was expected to receive notice of the lawsuit on Friday.
The two officers named in the complaint, John Bueno and Andy Contreras, were placed on administrative leave last fall following an investigation into a complaint the city received. The charges against Bueno and Contreras were not made public.
Bueno was fired in March after the Fire and Police Commission reviewed the case, and the ex-cop is set to appeal the termination in an arbitration hearing in November. Contreras was suspended for four months and was expected to return working for the Des Plaines Police Department.
Mayor Martin Moylan said while he would not comment on the lawsuit filed by the DuPage man, Sergio Toutges, he had complete faith in the work completed by the Fire and Police Commission regarding Bueno and Contreras.
Moylan pointed to recent changes in personnel including the police chief and several other top-ranking officers. When asked, Moylan would not confirm the change of guard was an indication there was a problem with the department’s operations.
“The case is that a lot of the top brass have moved on, and people can make their own assumption of what is going on,” Moylan said. “I think that there needed to be some look at how the police department was being managed.”
In the complaint, Bueno and Contreras are accused of beating Toutges in a parking garage while transporting him from the Elmhurst Police Department to the Des Plaines Police Department.
Toutges was stopped by Elmhurst police for a traffic violation on Aug. 12, 2010, and was transferred to Des Plaines police due to an outstanding warrant involving Des Plaines police officers, the complaint states.
On the way to the Des Plaines police station Bueno and Contreras intimidated and threatened Toutges with violence, the complaint states. The officers then drove into a parking garage, got out of the squad car, and told Toutges to get out too.
According to the complaint, Contreras grabbed Toutges and pulled him out.
While Toutges was still handcuffed, Bueno punched him in the right eye, the complaint states. Contreras, standing nearby, did not intervene.
Bueno and Contreras then punched and kicked Toutges several times, all while he was handcuffed, according to the complaint. The officers then transported Toutges to the Des Plaines police station.
Sarah Gelsomino, an attorney at the People’s Law Office in Chicago, is representing Toutges. She said the lawsuit does not say anything about Bueno’s termination or Contreras’ suspension.
“Our allegations are that Bueno and Contreras beat Sergio, and lied about it to try to cover their misconduct,” Gelsomino said. “I know the media has made connections. But in terms of proof of that, we’ll have to wait and see.”
At the time Bueno and Contreras picked up Toutges from Elmhurst police station, he was uninjured, according to the complaint. Later, at the Des Plaines police station, the booking officer remarked about Toutges’ injuries, and Bueno said, according to the complaint, Toutges was in that condition when they picked him up in Elmhurst.
Gelsomino said her firm specializes in police brutality complaints, and has represented some well-known cases including victims of former Chicago police lieutenant Jon Burge.
“It’s absolutely shameful behavior on the part of these Des Plaines police officers to terrorize a handcuffed arrestee, a person in their custody,” Gelsomino said. “They have a duty to protect a person in their custody, and rather than do so they stopped the car and punched him in the face and further beat him, while with handcuffs behind his back — totally helpless — and then went on to lie about it in an attempt to cover up their horrific behavior and blame it on the Elmhurst Police Department.”
Bueno filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2011, in which his supervisor, Deputy Chief Rich Rozkuszka, is accused of making racial slurs at Bueno referring to his Mexican heritage.
Bueno’s attorney representing him in the appeal of his termination, Richard Reimer, in April, said the discrimination complaint was a significant factor.
“There’s a lot of overlap between what the EEOC will be investigating and ultimately what transpires before the arbitrator in the grievance arbitration,” Reimer said. “I believe one of the major reasons [Bueno] was fired was because he was retaliated against because he filed a complaint against commander Rozkuszka.”
Toutges is seeking compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, interest and whatever additional relief the court deems equitable and just.
The Des Plaines Police Department is referring questions regarding this case to the city’s legal department. A message left for the city attorney’s office was not returned at publication time. Michael Bartholomew, city manager, was not available for comment on Friday.