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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Police Accused of Running Wild|in Southern Suburb of Chicago

CHICAGO (CN) - A week after two Markham police officers were charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a local warehouse, a businessman claimed in court that two Markham cops stole more than $20,000 from his electronics store.

Gem Pratts sued John Doe 1 to 6 and Jane Doe police officers in Federal Court.

Pratts owns We Buy Electronics, in Markham, a southern suburb of Chicago.

He claims the officers "entered the plaintiffs store during business hours brandishing and pointing guns at everyone."

It was two days before Christmas in 2010.

"The defendants held the plaintiff and others in custody for approximately an hour to an hour and a half," the complaint states.

"There was no reason to hold/arrest the plaintiff.

"The defendants never charged the plaintiff."

He claims the officers seized more than $20,000 from his store, "though initially reported fourteen thousand dollars ($14,000) was seized."

Pratts' attorney Gregory Kulis told Courthouse News on Wednesday: "I've talked to several people who said these guys stormed in, even took security officers' guns, handcuffed one of the security guards, and held the guards an hour and a half to two. They were ultimately released, and the police took off."

One cop broke into the cash box without a warrant and took the money, according to the 6-page complaint.

"Some [of the money] was returned and some was not," Kulis said in the interview. "They kept it saying it was evidence, and my client has heard nothing since then."

Last week two Markham police officers - one of them the son of the mayor - were charged with stealing thousands of dollars from a Dolton, Ill. business while investigating a burglary, according to the Chicago Tribune.

In its Nov. 22 story, the Tribune reported that one of the officers charged, Darryl Starks, 41, was fired from the Phoenix Police Department in 2006 and hired by Markham a year later.

Andrew Webb, 38, is the son of Markham Mayor David Webb Jr., according to the Tribune report.

The Tribune reported in 2010 that Markham's deputy police chief, Anthony DeBois, had been sued 13 times in six years. "He has since testified that the city kept officers on its payroll who engaged in misconduct or even criminal behavior, according to a motion filed in a civil lawsuit," the Tribune reported.

The Tribune report continued: "According to the motion, one Markham officer worked as a lookout for a gang 'safe house' in the city, another officer tried to buy a gun barrel for a convicted felon who wanted to swap out the barrel of a gun used in a homicide and two officers were found to have committed workers' compensation fraud against the city. All remained on the police force."

Pratts does not know the identities of the officers who took his money.

"One of the officers may be Mayor Webb's son. ... I don't know if these are the same guys," Kulis said in the interview. "We've subpoenaed Markham for any reports, documents, internal affairs, etc. because I need the identities of these officers."

Pratts seeks punitive damages for false arrest, unlawful search, unlawful seizure of property, and conspiracy.

Markham, pop, 12,200, is 81 percent African-American and its median household income of $41,782 is 23 percent below the state median of $53,966.

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