Rachel Ybarra, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Rafael Cruz, deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Chicago, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
December 4, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 16-cv-08009 -
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Flaum, Ripple, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Ybarra brought a lawsuit against the City of Chicago and
Chicago Police Department Commander Francis Valadez and
Officer Monica Reyes for excessive force and wrongful death
based on the shooting death of her son, Rafael Cruz. The
district court entered summary judgment for the defendants,
holding that the officers could have reasonably believed,
based on Cruz's involvement in a drive-by shooting and
extremely reckless driving, that Cruz posed an imminent
threat to others if allowed to escape from the parking lot
where they shot him.
affirm. Under the circumstances present in this case, the
officers had probable cause to believe that Cruz posed a
threat of serious physical harm to others in the immediate
vicinity. It was therefore not unreasonable for the officers
to prevent Cruz's escape by using deadly force.
the early hours of August 29, 2015, Chicago Police Department
Commander Francis Valadez and Officer Monica Reyes
(collectively, "the officers") were in an unmarked
police car patrolling a neighborhood where a gang-related
shooting had recently occurred. At approximately 1:30 a.m.,
the officers saw a rear passenger in Rafael Cruz's Chevy
Ta-hoe fire five gunshots at the occupants of another car.
Immediately after the shooting, Cruz drove away, reaching
speeds of 40 to 70 miles per hour in a 30-miles-per-hour
zone. Reyes called in an emergency, reporting "shots
fired" over the police radio. Valadez was driving and
followed Cruz's Tahoe, which had dark, tinted windows.
The officers followed Cruz's Tahoe through city streets
for approximately one mile but did not activate any emergency
lights or sirens on their vehicle.
the unmarked police car still following him, Cruz turned
westbound and struck a parked car on the north side of the
street with enough force that it pushed the car forward into
a second car parked roughly a car-length in front of it,
causing the second car to roll into a third. Despite that
collision, Cruz kept driving before crashing into a fourth
car on the south side of the street and coming to a stop near
the entrance of a parking lot.
point, the officers parked their car behind Cruz's Tahoe,
believing that it had stalled due to the damage it had
sustained during the collisions. Valadez then began getting
out of the car while announcing that he was a police officer.
Almost simultaneously, Cruz put his Tahoe into reverse,
forcing Valadez back into his car just before the back of the
Tahoe struck the driver's side of the car. The collision
forced the open driver's side door closed and caused the
officers' "whole car" to "rock."
Reyes thought that Valadez had been hit by the Tahoe and was
concerned that he may have been severely injured in the
seconds following the collision. Cruz then pulled forward and
turned left into the parking lot.
officers followed Cruz into the parking lot on foot, wearing
plain clothes, duty belts, and bulletproof police vests that
displayed their police star. Valadez ran to the south side of
the parking lot, while Reyes positioned herself behind a
parked car near the parking lot's entrance. Valadez
testified that he shouted "police" while running
into the parking lot. The parking lot was "pretty well
lit" by lights in the lot and at the adjacent
intersection. One of Cruz's passengers, Pasqual Nava,
testified that he knew that Valadez was a police officer
because he could see Valadez's vest. Reyes also yelled
several times to "stop the vehicle" and "stop
it." Two of Cruz's passengers, Jose Cabello and
Pasqual Nava, did not hear Valadez or Reyes say anything.
did not stop and instead made a three-point turn back toward
the parking lot's entrance, which was the only path for
vehicles to enter or exit the parking lot. The headlights of
Cruz's Tahoe shone directly at Valadez and then at Reyes
as Cruz completed his three-point turn and pulled forward.
Valadez initially stated that as the Tahoe began driving
forward, he saw the driver's window being lowered two to
three inches and believed that Cruz was about to begin
shooting at him. Video footage, however, showed that the
window may have already been rolled down before Cruz's
Tahoe entered the parking lot.
began driving forward, Valadez fired three shots at Cruz, and
Reyes immediately thereafter fired five additional shots at
him. The officers continued shooting after the Tahoe had
driven past Reyes. Reyes testified that she could see
Cruz's profile as he drove past her. Reyes called out
over the radio, "Shots fired by police, shots fired by
police." Cruz died as a result of a gunshot wound.
ninety seconds elapsed from the time the initial shots were
fired from Cruz's Tahoe until Cruz was shot, roughly
sixteen of which elapsed during the encounter in the parking
lot. Surveillance footage shows that pedestrians, cyclists,