The FBI is launching an investigation into the fatal Chicago police shooting of a motorist after the victim’s family challenged officers’ accounts that he was armed and opened fire.
A brief mention of the 2013 case was contained in thousands of pages of emails related to police shootings that the city released on New Year’s Eve, the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday.
According to sworn depositions by the two officers pursuing him, Esau Castellanos was speeding at 80 mph and crashed on the city’s northwest side. The officers say that when they approached, Castellanos opened fire.
The officers fired 19 shots at Castellanos, hitting him three times. His family disputes that, and no gun was ever found, leading the FBI to now open a civil rights investigation into the incident.
The Castellanos family’s attorney, Daniel O’Connor, says Esau Castellanos, who worked as a pizza delivery driver, was unarmed and posed no threat.
‘The city told his daughter that her dad was shooting at the police and that’s why he’s dead,’ O’Connor said.
‘They put it all over the news about how he was a bad guy and how these cops dove for cover and valiantly returned fire. It was a lie.
‘The guy just had a bad accident,’ O’Connor said. ‘He needed medical attention. He didn’t need to be shot.’
In recorded depositions with the family’s attorney, the officers said they pursued Castellanos’ speeding car because they thought he might have been fleeing a crime.
He sideswiped a car and then crashed. Records show his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. The officers say he fired at them and they dove for cover before returning fire.
Chicago’s police department has come under intense scrutiny, including a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation, since the release in November of squad car video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager 16 times.
Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald was carrying a small knife, but the video showed him walking away from police and contradicted officers’ accounts that he posed a serious threat.