The family of a 22-year-old man who died after a gang fight on July 5 is suing the town of Cicero and the officer they allege is responsible for his death.
Cesar A. Munive, a Riverside resident, was shot and killed by Cicero police on July 5 after he allegedly ran from a gang fight and pointed a gun at officers. The family filed a lawsuit in federal court on July 11 against the town, as well as Police Officer Dominick Schullo and other unknown Cicero police officers, claiming Munive was unarmed and shot in the back when he was killed.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Munive’s death a homicide, and caused by a “single gunshot wound of the back,” a spokesman there said.
Police arrived at a gang fight near 13th Street and 56th Court about 7 p.m. July 5 when the gang members “scattered,” said Cicero town spokesman Ray Hanania. Munive ran about a block away before allegedly drawing a gun and pointing it at officers, police said. One officer then shot Munive in the back.
Although Cicero officials have not confirmed who fired the fatal gunshot, the family’s lawsuit alleges that Munive was shot by Schullo — the son of former Cicero Police Chief Emil Schullo who was sentenced to nine years in prison for mob-linked corruption schemes during the town’s Betty Loren-Maltese scandal a decade ago.
Munive was taken to Loyola Hospital in critical condition, where he later died from his injuries. Because it was a police-involved shooting, the case has since been turned over to Illinois State Police for review. That department’s investigation has not yet been completed.
“We stand by the professionalism and the dedication of our Cicero Police Department to provide safety in the fight against street gangs,” Hanania said. “We take street gang-related incidents very seriously. We stand by the validity of the facts of this case.”
Daniel J. Stohr, the Chicago-based attorney representing Munive’s family, alleges the official account of the shooting is false and an attempt to cover up police brutality. A monetary amount was not specifically listed for the damages claimed by the lawsuit, which include medical and funeral expenses, as well as attorney fees, compensatory and punitive damages.
“The Cicero police, with the cooperation of the Berwyn police, have been engaging in a pattern of harassment,” Stohr said Friday.
Stohr also alleges that police have since intimidated the family to coerce them not to testify against the department, including during Thursday’s wake when a police helicopter circled above Parkwyn Funeral Home, 6901 Roosevelt Road in Berwyn.
Munive’s funeral services took place Friday. His mother, Wanda Colon, said they were marred by police presence.
“I think that was just so disrespectful. They did not give us any time to mourn,” she said. “He’s already dead. What more do they want?”
The lawsuit specifically accuses Cicero police officers of “calling witnesses on the telephone in the middle of the night, shining lasers into the windows of the home of a witness, threatening to kill (a witness) and stopping vehicles and detaining relatives.”
Berwyn City Administrator Brian Pabst said in a statement that more than 10 law enforcement agencies banded together to suppress gang activity at the wake after receiving credible, specific threats that gang members were going to target police officers and firefighters.
At no point, Pabst said, did any emergency personnel attempt to harass or intimidate family members at the wake.
“We took a very low-key approach to this wake for multiple reasons, therefore police activity was not observed by most people in the area,” Pabst said Friday. “If it were (an attempt at harassment), we wouldn’t have had undercover folks out there. We would’ve had everybody in uniform on the street.” Pabst added that the police operation yielded two arrests for warrants and valuable intelligence.
Although Stohr would not comment about Munive’s alleged gang affiliations, the 22-year-old did have a record.
According to media reports, Munive pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of battery in 2008 and was sentenced to 180 days in jail after he got four local fourth-grade students to join a gang-like association that included paying $5 per week in dues and getting to use a BB gun. The then-18-year-old Munive shot one of the boys in the leg with the BB gun and forced one child at gunpoint to shoot two others with the BB gun.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office denied felony charges in that case because police were unable to recover the weapon.
Munive also was on court supervision at that time for a prior conviction of two counts of criminal sexual abuse, which were classified as misdemeanors, according to media reports.
“He had a background, but none of that matters,” Stohr said. “So you’ve been to prison, and the police can just shoot you in the back? That’s the issue here.”
For Colon, the lawsuit is partially a matter of justice — and a way of dealing with the loss of her eldest son. She painted a picture of a young man who had not had a conviction in four years and spent most of his time with his younger siblings or applying for jobs.
“He was still a kid at heart. He didn’t want to grow up,” Colon said. “If anything, he was even more scared of going back to jail. ... We know even up to his last moments ... he was screaming, ‘Why me? I didn’t do anything.’”