October 21, 2020

Lawsuit: CTA supervisor arrested while trying to file complaint against CPD officer

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CHICAGO – A federal lawsuit has been filed after a Chicago officer told a CTA worker he would arrest her if she filed a complaint against the police.

It started more than four months ago at the Jackson Red Line platform. Musician Michael Malinowski, known as “Machete Mike” for the way he plays guitar, was playing music when he was suddenly stabbed by a 38-year-old woman.

The woman later said the guitar playing had given her a headache.

CTA supervisor Martesa Lee was there as the incident commander. Chicago police arrived to the scene and what followed was captured on body cam footage.

“When they came, the control center and my manager was on the radio asking me to assess the situation to see if trains could bypass that regular, normal stop,” Lee said.

CPD had not taped off the crime scene yet, but even as members of the public walked through the unmarked scene, an officer singles out Lee.

“You need to get out of the crime scene, ma’am. Please get out of the crime scene,” Officer Haran said.

“Do not touch me,” Lee responded.

The entire incident lasted for about 30 seconds. Lee said the officer grabbed her and she then went up to a CPD sergeant to tell him what had happened.

“Oh, maybe you were in the crime scene. I’m not sure. He wouldn’t grab you just for no reason,” Sgt. Spyker said.

“He grabbed me and pushed me. Clearly, it can be seen, too,” she told him.

“If he tells me that you were obstructing the crime scene, we’re going to arrest you,” Sgt. Spyker said.

“You aren’t going to arrest me for doing my job,” Lee told him.

“Yes, we are. That’s the way it’s gonna go if you want to complain,” Sgt. Spyker said.

Lee was arrested and kept on the platform for eight minutes before she was released without charges.

Lee’s attorney, Jordan Marsh, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging false arrest and violation of Lee’s First Amendment right. He said the dispute gets at something deeper, what he called the “casual corruption” that keeps citizens from speaking up about mistreatment.

“The way the sergeant said it, knowing he was on video, he was so casual about it, didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with it,” Marsh said.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating and did not comment for this story.

A spokesperson for the city’s law department said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

But in court filings, the officers dispute some of the accusations.

“A complaint has been received regarding this incident. An investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) is now underway. Due to the open investigation, we are unable to comment further on this incident. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) strives to treat all individuals our officers encounter with respect. We do not tolerate misconduct of any kind and if any wrongdoing is discovered, officers will be held accountable,” a CPD spokesperson said.

Lee thinks she was being bullied.

“I think they were bullying me not to complain,” she said.

Lee has worked for the CTA for nearly a decade and has no criminal history.

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