Charged Chicago police lieutenant allegedly shoved flashlight between teen’s buttocks during arrest

A veteran Chicago police supervisor is the third city officer this week to be arrested on allegations that he used excessive force in an on-duty incident, authorities said Thursday, accusing him of shoving a flashlight between a clothed teen’s buttocks in February.

Lt. Wilfredo Roman Jr., a Chicago cop since June 2000, was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct, both felonies.

At a Thursday bond hearing for Roman, where he was ordered released on his own recognizance, prosecutors said the officer “shoved” a flashlight between the buttocks of a 17-year-old suspect after he was handcuffed and over his clothing. As he walked away, Roman allegedly said, “That’s what you get for carjacking.”

Assistant State’s Atty. Mary McDonnell said the incident took place as police were arresting the 17-year-old, identified only as “Z.K.” in the 2000 block of North LeClaire Avenue after a foot chase.

After allegedly carjacking a man at gunpoint and taking his Mazda on Feb. 9, the 17-year-old and a 16-year-old were spotted by Roman, who radioed in to report that they had fled on foot and he was chasing them but could not get over a gate.

Other officers caught up to Z.K. in an alley, where he allegedly tossed a handgun while trying to climb a fence, McDonnell said. An officer gave the teen verbal commands to surrender, and he put his hands in the air and got on the ground. While being handcuffed, prosecutors said the teen yelled at the officers that the handcuffs were too tight.

As the arresting officer adjusted the cuffs, Roman yelled at the teen to shut up, walked up to him from behind and “shoved his flashlight in between Z.K.’s buttocks,” McDonnell told the judge.

McDonnell told the judge the teen reacted by “yelling out when the flashlight entered his buttocks.” McDonnell said the teen was clothed when asked for more details in court by Cook County Judge Arthur Wesley Willis, who set bond.

The incident was captured on officer body cameras, officials said.

Roman’s lawyer, James McKay, contended there was no injury to the teen, as he was clothed and wearing a coat during the alleged incident.

“This is a spank or a spanking, for the love of God,” McKay said. “I had nuns that treated me far worse.”

McKay also noted that Roman, 44, is a father of two who is engaged to be married.

The police department issued a statement on the case Thursday without addressing the specifics of the allegation.

“Last night, Lt. Wilfredo Roman of the Chicago Police Department surrendered for arrest to members of the Department’s Bureau of Internal Affairs at the 1st District Police Station,” the statement said. “These charges are related to an on-duty incident that occurred on February 9, 2021...Upon learning of the incident in July, the department promptly relieved Roman, 44, of police powers. He could face additional disciplinary actions pending the outcomes of the criminal and administrative investigations.”

The 17-year-old was charged in the case in Cook County Juvenile Court for aggravated vehicular hijacking and unlawful use of a weapon, authorities said.

Roman is a tactical lieutenant in the Grand Central patrol district on the far West and Northwest Side.

According to the Institute Institute, a Chicago-based police accountability group, Roman has been a subject of 40 citizen complaints in his CPD career, including numerous allegations of false arrest and excessive force. Only one of those complaints was found to have been “sustained,” however — a 2011 allegation involving improper lockup procedures, for which he received a reprimand from the police department, according to the database.

The charges come the day after two other Chicago cops had court appearances for the alleged beating of a 17-year-old boy who they were trying to arrest earlier this year on the South Side after a car chase. Grand Crossing District Officers Jeffery Shafer and Victor Guebara were charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct in that case.

And Roman’s arrest now marks at least the fourth time since early August that a Chicago cop has been arrested on felony charges. On Aug. 5, Officer Melvina Bogard, 32, was charged with shooting a man during a long struggle on the Grand Avenue platform downtown last year, scattering Red Line commuters at rush hour.

Records show that Roman has been sued over allegations of misconduct at least three times over the past decade, all before he became a lieutenant, including by a man who claimed he was shot and seriously wounded by police during a foot chase in August 2011.

The plaintiff in that case, Richard Keeler, alleged in his suit filed in U.S. District Court that Roman and at least three other officers chased into an enclosed stairwell on the 900 block of North Parkside Avenue “without good cause,” then shot him twice.

One shot took off his right pinky finger while he was blocking his face, and the other went into his chest, according to court records.

The suit did not specify which officers allegedly fired their weapons.

The lawsuit alleged Keeler was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and that the officers, realizing they’d made a mistake, “knowingly and maliciously gave false information to police investigators” after the shooting, leading to his arrest on charges of aggravated assault.

The lawsuit was settled for $200,000, records show.

Roman was named in another federal lawsuit alleging officers had kicked in the door of a Logan Square apartment with guns drawn in January 2008 and conducted a warrantless search. That suit was settled for $18,000, records show.

Most recently, Roman was named in a lawsuit in Cook County in 2015 alleging he and other officers drew guns on a man and his brother and arrested them without cause in November 2013. When one of the brothers asked Roman why they were being mistreated, Roman allegedly kneed him in the abdomen, according to the suit.

The victim, Edward Matthews was jailed for months awaiting trial and was eventually found not guilty. The lawsuit was settled for $60,000.

Tribune reporter Megan Crepeau contributed to this story.