ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The family of the Rockford teen shot and killed while allegedly trying to hold up Marie's Pizza are filing a lawsuit today in federal court.
They allege that Frank Pobjecky, the off-duty sheriff's deputy who happened to be in the restaurant at the time, used excessive force and failed to provide medical care.
This is the statement released today from the family's attorney:
CHICAGO, IL (September 28, 2012) – The family of the late Michael DeAngelo Sago, Jr. filed a lawsuit in federal court today against the off-duty police officer who shot the unarmed teenager during an incident at a Rockford pizzeria. The lawsuit alleges that Frank Pobjecky, a deputy with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department, violated Sago, Jr.’s civil rights, used excessive force, failed to provide medical care, and failed to summon paramedics in a timely fashion, among other things. Also named in the lawsuit are Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers and Winnebago County.
The lawsuit arises from an October 2011 incident at Marie’s Pizza in Rockford, IL, during which a robbery suspect displayed a gun. That suspect was shot and immobilized by off-duty officer Pobjecky, who happened to be inside the small carryout pizzeria at the time. Pobjecky then shot and critically wounded two other unarmed adult men who were attempting to leave the scene.
After the suspect with the gun was shot and immobilized, and the two other unarmed men left the scene, Sago, Jr. tried to leave the scene. Pobjecky shot the unarmed teenager three times in the back. Sago, Jr. did not immediately die of his gunshot wounds. He fell to the ground just outside the pizzeria, which is located across from a hospital, and lay bleeding in the parking lot until he died. The lawsuit alleges that Pobjecky did nothing to provide medical care to the dying teenager.
The complaint, filed by Chicago civil rights attorney Basileios “Bill” Foutris on behalf of the young victim’s family, charges Pobjecky and Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers with wrongful death and misconduct. Pobjecky “acted in an intentional, willful and wanton manner and/or in utter disregard for” Sago, Jr.’s safety, according to today’s filing.
In a statement released by his department several weeks after the shootings occurred, Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said that he believes that Deputy Pobjecky’s actions were “in compliance with all department policies and procedures and he acted according to proper police training.” Sheriff Meyers subsequently nominated Pobjecky for a law enforcement award for his actions.
The victim’s family’s complaint asserts that the actions and statements of the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department are “sending the unmistakable message to Sheriff’s Deputies that shooting unarmed teenagers in the back is a proper act.” In doing so, according to the complaint, the policies and procedures of the Sheriff’s Department are “directly encouraging future abuses” such as this one.
“Were it not for the gross misconduct of Frank Pobjecky, Michael Sago, Jr. would be alive today,” said Foutris. “Michael was an unarmed minor who was running from the scene. He was a 16-year-old who was shot in the back not once, but three times even though he did not present a threat to Pobjecky,” explained Foutris.
During a court proceeding two months after the shootings, it was discovered that the entire incident was captured on the pizzeria’s video security system. Sago, Jr.’s family has not been permitted to view the video footage. Prosecutors originally objected to the videotaped evidence being shared with the defense. They successfully obtained a gag order on the video so that it cannot be shared with Sago, Jr.’s family or the media, according to Foutris.
The six-count lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Pobjecky, as well as compensatory damages from the other defendants. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division (James Horton, as the Independent Administrator of the Estate of Michael DeAngelo Sago, Jr., Plaintiff, v. Deputy Frank Pobjecky, Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers and Winnebago County, Defendants).