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FBI probe alleged beating by Stroger guards

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

The FBI is investigating an incident in which a 75-year-old Chicago man who recently recovered from a stroke was dragged from his car by Stroger Hospital security guards.
The man -- who had been waiting to pick up his wife from her job at a clinic across the street from the West Side hospital -- was roughed up enough to require medical treatment.
Augustin Sotomayor was waiting in his car in a no-parking zone Monday when the armed guards approached.
They ordered him to move, but also began asking about his ethnicity and citizenship, his wife told the Chicago Sun-Times. When he reached for his wallet, the guards opened the door and ripped him from the car, the wife said.
Sotomayor suffered cuts and bruises and was undergoing heart tests Wednesday as his family struggled to understand why the incident happened.
"It was very scary," said Sotomayor's wife, Manuela, who has worked as a patient-care attendant at the Ruth Rothstein CORE Center since 1998. Like Stroger Hospital, the center is operated by Cook County government.
She said she witnessed her husband being thrown to the ground. "I don't want that to ever happen to anybody else, people getting such bad treatment," she said.
Guard faces suspension
Wednesday afternoon, Sotomayor was charged with resisting arrest and misdemeanor battery, as the guards claimed his car tire went over one of their feet during the incident, Sotomayor's family said.
However, one guard faces possible suspension because of the ordeal, county officials said.
Separately, FBI spokesman Ross Rice said agents are investigating "whether there was a potential violation of federal civil rights laws" against Sotomayor or a "color of law violation," meaning a sworn law-enforcement officer overstepped his authority. Stroger Hospital guards are sworn officers and county employees.
"What the hell does someone's citizenship have to do with anything?" asked county Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, a family friend. "Dragging this old man out of his car, beating him up; I don't care what he did -- what kind of law enforcement is that?"
Maldonado said Sotomayor did not immediately respond to officers' requests for ID because he is slow from a stroke.
"But then he gets pulled out and thrown on the ground? The guy started crying, freaking out," Maldonado said.
Also an issue, Maldonado said, is a camera cell phone that one witness reportedly used to document the incident -- and which hospital guards say is now lost.
Dr. Daniel Winship, who runs the county's hospitals, said: "If true, this is an outrageous incident." He said hospital security officers will undergo sensitivity training.

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