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Ill. paramedics, retired fire lieutenant sued over photo of dying man

The suit claims medics allowed the photo to be taken and that the retired lieutenant posted it online implying the man was a looter during civil unrest

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A woman whose brother was fatally shot during last summer’s unrest in suburban Chicago filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging that two paramedics allowed a photo to be taken of the dying man, and that a retired fire department lieutenant posted it on Facebook along with a disparaging caption.

In the lawsuit, Adriana Cazares contends that her brother, Victor Cazares Jr., was shot by an unknown gunman on June 1 after going to a grocery store in the town of Cicero. She said he went there to “discourage any criminal conduct” amid widespread unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

The lawsuit contends that two paramedics, Justin Zheng and Gene Lazcano either took the photograph or allowed someone else to take it within minutes of their arrival at the scene of the shooting. It allegedly showed the 27-year-old Cazares on a stretcher, his head wrapped in what appears to be blood-drenched gauze, and was sent to Frank R. Rand, a retired Cicero Fire Department lieutenant.

Rand, according to the lawsuit, quickly posted it to a Facebook group of 8,000 people who grew up in Cicero, along with a caption that read, “Come to Cicero to loot and break s(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)! Get a free body bag! Nice head shot!”

“Defendants Zheng, Lazcano and Rand, through their actions in conspiring and in taking and publishing the photograph, including falsely depicting Victor Cazares as a looter...” the lawsuit alleges.

Further, the lawsuit contends that after the photograph and caption were published, Cazares’ family was “subjected to offensive comments and taunts, as were others associated with them.”

The photograph does not appear in Rand’s Facebook page. An attorney for Adriana Cazares, Michael Kanovitz, said he believes Rand took it down shortly after he posted it. But Kanovitz provided it to The Associated Press.

In a statement, Cicero spokesman Ray Hanania said the police department and the city’s internal affairs office have been investigating the incident. He said that the two paramedics are not Cicero employees but work for a private company. And he said because Rand is retired, Cicero has no influence over his social media posts, adding, “We have publicly admonished his conduct in the past.”

Hanania said that Cicero’s investigators haven’t determined who took the photograph but believe it was taken from inside the ambulance.