Proposed $1.2M settlement in police custody death moving forward

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CHICAGO — A proposed settlement of $1.2 million in the Heriberto Godinez case is moving forward to a vote by the full city council.

The city's finance committee authorized the settlement Wednesday, with only four votes against it. One belonged to 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez.

Last week he tweeted, "No way in hell I'm voting to give $1.2 million to the estate of a coked out gang banger that died resisting arrest."

Lopez let the committee know he has not changed his mind.

"We have to send a message," Lopez said. "We have to stand up and fight not only the criminals in the streets, but the criminals in the courts when they try to sue us for money for the bad behavior and terror they inflicted on the 77 communities we all represent."

Lopez alleged that Godinez was a documented gang member with an extensive criminal record. He was caught trying to burglarize a Brighton Park garage in 2015 according to police.

Godinez died in police custody while he was being arrested for burglary in 2015.

Multiple autopsies revealed that the 26-year-old overdosed on cocaine with signs of severe alcohol poisoning as police took Godinez into custody. An autopsy also revealed having an officer step on his neck was a significant contributing factor to his death.

Supporters of the settlement found that paying $1.2 million would be much cheaper than battling the Godinez family in court.

"The cost of trying it for us would outweigh the cost of the settlement offer. That's what I've struggled with," Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th Ward) said.

Godinez's loved ones were at the filing of a 2016 wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Chicago. They denied the allegations of burglary. Their lawyer contended that it was having a foot on his Godinez's neck that helped lead to his death.

An autopsy commissioned by the family found that Godinez died of asphyxiation with mortal damage to the arteries in his neck — part of the reason why Chicago's finance committee voted to recommend the settlement.

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