By: Azam Ahmed, Chicago Tribune: July 27th, 2007

Three men were crossing a North Side street in January when a car allegedly blew through a stop sign and almost hit them. Jacob Butko yelled something and made an obscene gesture at the car, prompting its occupants — two plainclothes police officers — to jump out and severely beat Butko and his friends, a federal lawsuit alleged Thursday. More officers arrived in a separate car and continued to beat them, even after two of them had been handcuffed, according to the suit.

A fourth friend who appeared on the scene later had a gun put to his face by one of the officers, the suit alleged.

“The only reason they thought they could get away with that is because in this city the system for disciplining and investigating an abuse [by police] is broken and dysfunctional,” said Jon Loevy, one of the lawyers who filed the suit.

The lawsuit alleged that the attack was unprovoked, but three of the four plaintiffs pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges stemming from the Jan. 7 incident. The suit claims the officers gave false testimony at a hearing of the charges.

The three contended that they pleaded guilty out of fear and to avoid hefty legal expenses and even more serious charges that could have led to jail time.

The suit seeks monetary damages.

Chicago police said that the incident is under investigation and that the officers remain on the job pending the investigation’s outcome.

The altercation began as Butko, Ruben Vazquez and Shaun Meesak were crossing Clark Street at Leland Avenue after leaving a nearby bar on the early weekend morning they were nearly hit by the unmarked car, the suit said.

After Butko shouted and gestured, the two officers got out and ordered Vazquez and Meesak up against a fence, according to the suit.

One of the officers began punching Vazquez and Meesak in the face while another looked on without interceding, the suit alleged.

“The officers came out swinging, hit me in the face about a half a dozen times and said that I had flipped them off,” Vazquez said Thursday at a news conference in the lobby of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.

During the encounter, Vazquez was allowed to leave, but officers continued to beat and choke Meesak, the suit alleged. “He choked me for a long time and I almost lost consciousness,” Meesak said about one of his alleged assailants.

Another officer approached Butko and threw him into a car, punching him repeatedly, the suit alleged. He was then handcuffed by the officer and punched several more times, according to the complaint.

As the men were being beaten, another victim, Derrick Peoples, stepped outside of the bar, saw his friends being assaulted and demanded that the officers stop, the suit alleged.

An officer threatened Peoples with arrest, he said, and he returned to the bar. The officer followed him into the bar, drew his gun and pointed it at Peoples’ face before dragging and pushing him out of the bar, the suit said.

Their lawyers said the victims, all in their late 20s, have no criminal history as adults, are employed and all but Vazquez are college graduates.