A $25 traffic offense put a Chicago man behind bars with brain damage

Prison Doug Berry/Getty Images

Late last summer, a dust up happened between then-22-year-old Tyler Lumar and a physician a West Side clinic.

Lumar, who had asthma, was at the East Garfield Park clinic for a first visit after his longtime doctor died. He allegedly yelled and threatened a physician who refused to refill his cough medicine prescription, tossed papers on the floor and then said he would come back and shoot the place up.

What happened following this confrontation resulted in an arrest for a $25 overdue parking ticket, and ultimately catastrophic brain damage. Now, Lumar’s family is left with question, and they want answers.

Dashcam footage shows Lumar yelling at the police officers “I’m so tired of racism, bro,” alleging the incident began when the doctor accused Lumar, who has no criminal record, of reselling his prescription drugs. “That’s racial profiling. I don’t gangbang, I went to Oak Park and River Forest (High School). I played baseball.”

Police initially let Lumar go without charges, but records show that just moments later the same officers stopped him as he walked down Madison Street. They then arrested him because a western Illinois county had issued a warrant over an overdue $25 payment in a misdemeanor traffic case but had failed to remove the warrant when Lumar paid up. Police said the father of one attempted to hang himself in a Harrison District police holding cell less than 24 hours later. As a result, he’s suffered massive brain injuries and can no longer move or speak and has spent the past year on life support — his medical bills racked up to about $2 million.

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According to an arrest report, Lumar’s family has ruminated over why Lumar was kept locked up overnight on a low-level warrant. The family has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Lumar was wrongfully detained and that Chicago police failed to check on him every 15 minutes in his cell — as well as falsifying the inspection logs, a record-keeping breach the lawsuit says is a common police practice in Chicago.

“My son never should’ve been there (in a police lockup),” his mother, Lisa Alcorn, in an interview by the Chicago Tribune.

Issue experts say the case is not just another example of the city’s as well as county’s failures to keep nonviolent offenders from dying in jails but it also accentuates the fine line defendants walk in misdemeanor cases, where a slightly late payment can somehow equal jail time.

Casey Tecate, 23, Lumar’s longtime girlfriend, once thought of becoming a cop, saying “it definitely is scary; it goes to show it could literally happen to anybody. I feel like they, meaning the police, just don’t … look at certain people as people. They’re just like ‘Oh (this is) some person from the West Side of Chicago.’ They weren’t looking at him as Tyler Lumar: a dad, a brother, a son.”

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Casey spends part of most days in a Des Plaines rehab hospital with the now 23-year-old man she started a family with. Casey will occasionally bring their daughter, Savannah, now 4. Alcorn says she hopes the lawsuit help the family pay for Lumar’s medical care also hopes it will change how Chicago police treat those they arrest. “In Chicago, you should be scared for your son,” she said.

The family’s lawsuit alleges the city is responsible, too, as it ignored the widespread police practice of falsifying cell inspection records. The Cook County sheriff’s office, which briefly housed Lumar in the county jail, is also being sued.

Attorneys for the city and its police officers say they did nothing wrong and have asked a judge to dismiss the case. “Plaintiff has failed to plead that Lumar’s suicide attempt was a constitutional deprivation instead of just a tragic decision by Lumar himself,” the police officers’ attorneys wrote in a recent court filing.

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