FBI Probes 2013 Fatal Chicago Police Shooting of Esau Castellanos


The FBI confirmed Sunday that it has opened a civil rights investigation of a 2013 fatal shooting by Chicago police officers, a development as the nation’s third-largest city is already on edge over a series of police-involved shootings.

Esau Castellanos was driving 80 mph when he crashed his car on March 16, 2013. Police officers Shawn Lawryn and Juan Martinez testified in a civil lawsuit brought by the man’s family that Castellanos fired on them after he crashed.

The two officers returned fire, shooting 19 times and wounding him three times. The officers then handcuffed Castellanos to his steering wheeling, according to the 2014 lawsuit.

No gun was recovered, and Castellanos’ family disputed the officer’s claim that he had a gun.

“The Chicago FBI Field Office has opened a civil rights investigation into the police-involved shooting of Esau Castellanos,” said FBI spokesman Garrett Croon. “The FBI will continue to collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner.”

Croon declined to offer further comment.

Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman, said the department only learned of the FBI probe into the Castellanos shooting on Friday, the same day interim Superintendent John Escalante placed Lawryn and Martinez on administrative duty. The FBI investigation, which was first reported by the Chicago Tribune on Saturday, has been ongoing for two years, Guglielmi said.

The Independent Police Review Authority, the city task force charged with investigating allegations of serious police misconduct, is also investigating the shooting, Guglielmi said. The review authority referred the investigation to the FBI.

Martinez told investigators after the shooting that he had been shot by Castellanos, a father of two and pizza deliver driver. It was later determined that Martinez had not been shot and just suffered scrapes and bruises.

The  investigation comes after U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced last month that the Justice Department was conducting a broad investigation of the department’s patterns and practices. The Justice Department investigation was launched following the November release of a 2014 police video that showed a police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on a city street.

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