CHICAGO – Twelve-year-old Amir Worship was sitting on his bed, shirtless and with his hands raised, when an Illinois police officer shot him in the knee with an AR-15-style rifle during a pre-dawn SWAT raid.
Five surgeries and four years later, he has PTSD and a permanent disability.
Amir and his mother, Crystal Worship, sued the officer – who claims he fired accidentally – and the suburb of Richton Park, Illinois, in the 2019 incident, alleging the officer intentionally or recklessly shot Amir.
Atttoneys on Wednesday announced a $12 million settlement in the case. While several probes did not find misconduct, the family is now calling on county prosecutors to hold the officer accountable.
“He was never disciplined and never even taken off the streets,” said family attorney Al Hofeld, Jr. “You can’t just shoot a 12-year-old child for literally no reason and do it with complete impunity.”
What happened to Amir Worship?
Worship and his family were sleeping on May 26, 2019, when a SWAT team entered the home “with exploding flash-grenades,” rifles and “other displays of deadly force,” attorneys said. “They knew there were children living in this house,” Hofeld said.
The officers were executing a search warrant for Crystal Worship’s boyfriend, who was arrested and charged with drug possession, attorneys said. The charges were later dropped.
Officers entered the rooms of Amir and his two brothers, shouted commands and pointed rifles at them, attorneys said. “The children were terrified they were about to be killed. They never refused to follow instructions, resisted, attempted to flee, or posed any threat whatsoever,” attorneys said in a press release.
That’s when the officer’s gun went off, striking and shattering Amir’s right kneecap and injuring other bones, attorneys said. Amir underwent five surgeries and physical therapy and is expected to require multiple knee replacements during his lifetime, attorneys said. “He will not be able to play any sports again,” the statement said.
After the shooting, Amir suffered “a lot” of pain, stayed in his room for days and lost his confidence, Crystal Worship said in a press conference Wednesday. “There was a lot of sleepless nights,” said Worship, who moved the family to Texas after the incident.
Now 16, Amir is sleeping better, has his confidence back and “just wants to be happy,” Worship said.
What happened to the police officer who shot Amir Worship?
Caleb Blood, a Richton Park police officer who was acting as a member of the South Suburban Emergency Response Team, was later fired from the team. Three investigations – one by the Illinois State Police and two by Richton Park – did not find misconduct, according to Hofeld.
The settlement includes a public apology from Richton Park, a private apology from Blood and a commitment from Blood to retraining and recertification.
In a statement Wednesday, the Village of Richton Park apologized for Blood’s “tragic mistake” and said the “accidental shooting of innocent, 12-year-old Amir, which could have resulted in his death, should never have occurred.”
Jim Sotos, who represents Blood, told USA TODAY the village’s statement reflects Blood’s views. He added: “Officer Blood recognizes that this was just a tragic accident that shouldn’t have happened.”
Crystal Worship said she accepted Blood’s apology but that his actions were “reckless.” She said “justice would be served” if the Cook County State’s Attorney re-opened its investigation and brought charges.
Previously, other plaintiffs, including Amir’s brothers, settled with other defendants, including the SWAT commander and another officer, on allegations of excessive force, totalling $322,000, Hofeld said.
“This is exactly what’s going to happen in Chicago if officers don’t universally change the practice they have of pointing guns indiscriminately,” said Hofeld, whose firm represents 30 children of color — most under 10 years old — who have had guns pointed at them by law enforcement.
More than 1,000 people are fatally shot by U.S. law enforcement every year, including a disproportionate number of Black Americans, according to a Washington Post database that tracks fatal police shootings. It’s unclear how many more people police kill by other means or are injured annually.
Story Credit: usatoday.com