A Chicago woman filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging she was falsely arrested and assaulted by a Chicago police officer while trying to clean a store where she worked during 2020′s unrest and mass looting in the city.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union names two police officers, Eric Taylor and Treacher Howard, and the city of Chicago. The woman, Julie Campos, then 19, was working at a Family Dollar in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on June 2, 2020, eight days after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. She and her co-workers were called in to clean up the store after it was burglarized.
“I just want police officers to be held accountable for their actions for a situation that people don’t really speak up about,” Campos, now 21, said in a Tribune interview.
The suit claims Taylor falsely arrested Campos and that he and his partner, Howard, fabricated information in their police report. The lawsuit also alleges the officers violated Campos’s right to record police officers and the department still has a “code of silence,” an unspoken practice where officers protect each other from misconduct allegations.
A spokeswoman for the city’s law department said via email the department had not yet been officially served with the lawsuit as of Thursday afternoon.
“Upon receipt, the complaint will be reviewed,” the spokeswoman said in the email. “We will have no further comment as the matter is now in litigation.”
The officers were at the store around 11:40 a.m. “for reasons that are not clear,” according to the lawsuit. Campos said in an interview that the officers weren’t called to the store, but officers told the employees they would be officers there throughout the day to check on them and make sure no one else tried to go inside the store.
At the time of the incident, Campos was living in a shelter and had only recently started working at the Family Dollar as a cashier, she said.
When officers Taylor and Howard arrived, Taylor began to argue with one of the store’s assistant managers who was upset that the officers were there and had requested a supervisor, the lawsuit said. Taylor and the assistant manager began yelling profanities at each other, which was captured on Taylor’s body camera.
“It was really surprising to see, especially a police officer behave that way,” Campos said. “Because that’s just not the image that people have of police officers … So for that to be my first interaction with a police officer, just seeing how he was speaking, his tone, everything he was saying, it was just surprising and scary because it’s like you’re supposed to be here to serve and protect, and you know, you’re not. You’re doing the opposite.”
Campos was inside the store when she heard yelling coming from the parking lot, the suit said. When Campos went outside and saw Taylor arguing with the assistant manager, she began filming police with her cellphone. The two continued arguing while Campos and others went back into the store to continue cleaning, according to the court document.
Campos made several trips throughout the open back door to carry collapsed boxes to a Dumpster in the parking lot, while the two officers waited there for backup to arrive, the lawsuit said.
After additional officers arrived, Taylor “stormed toward the back door of the store,” and when he approached the door, Campos was standing in the doorway holding collapsed boxes, the lawsuit said. Campos froze and was confused about why Taylor was coming toward her, and then he pushed her out the doorway, hitting her in the face.
“I just remember instantly I started crying because he hit me in my face, and everybody was confused about what had happened,” Campos told the Tribune.
Taylor had been looking for the assistant manager to arrest him, but Campos did not know this, the lawsuit said. Campos took out her phone and began livestreaming on Facebook Live.
“This police officer just punched me in the face!” she said while recording, according to the lawsuit.
After unsuccessfully searching for the assistant manager, Taylor turned toward Campos and said “(You) know what … she’s going for obstruction,” the lawsuit said.
Campos was arrested and put in a squad car after Taylor said she jumped in front of him as he was trying to make an arrest, the lawsuit said. Campos was then held in the Gresham District station’s lockup for about five hours. She did not have her phone, so she was unable to tell friends or family where she was or arrange for someone to pick her then 1-year-old son up from day care.
Campos said that the co-worker she gave her phone to kept recording as she was arrested and was telling the people watching the stream to call her family. Her Facebook friends kept trying to tag her family members and her son’s dad, and her friends eventually found her by calling different police stations. Her son’s dad was able to pick him up, and he eventually picked her up from the station.
“I didn’t have a good relationship with my family or my son’s dad, so I didn’t know my son’s dad was going to go pick him up,” she told the Tribune. “It was just scary to come out because I’m really bad with streets and knowing where I am so if it wasn’t for my son’s dad being there, I don’t even know how I would have gotten home.”
In August 2020, the charge against Campos was dismissed by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, the lawsuit said.
“It’s important, we think, for the public to know that this problem of officers engaging in false arrests is widespread throughout CPD, but could be prevented through proper training of officers, and supervising officers arrest reports to make sure that the bases for arrests reflect the reality, and not the kind of false statements, which these officers put in their arrest reports,” said Joshua Levin, a staff attorney with ACLU of Illinois.
Levin said Taylor particularly should not have been on the street given he has received 28 civilian complaints of misconduct, which is more than 93% of other officers, according to the lawsuit.
Campos, who now lives in Little Village, said she’s worried about her son growing up as a man of color and interacting with the police
“Now, I don’t even like looking at police officers,” she said. “They think people should be scared of them. And we’re not supposed to be scared of them.”