Chicago’s $2.9 Million Blunder

December 27, 2021

How a broken door transformed into a seismic event and a seven-figure settlement

On the evening of February 21, 2019, a Tactical Team serving with the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) 11th District attempted to serve a search warrant on a home in the Near West Side neighborhood of Chicago. Nearly three years later, on December 16, 2021, the Chicago City Council approved a settlement with Anjanette Young, the owner of the home Chicago police entered.  

The conclusion of a tense chapter in recent Chicago history, in a dramatic finale to negotiations between City Hall and Ms. Young, the resolution thrashed out delivered $2.9 million to Young for her trouble. In sharp contrast to the treatment afforded her, several 11th District police officers serving on the Tactical Team which carried out the search warrant were disciplined for committing an error and CPD had curbs imposed on a proven police tactic.

Winding back the clock to February 2019, it must be understood police were acting on information provided by an unnamed individual, which officers determined to be sufficiently convincing evidence to present to a judge for approval of a “John Doe” warrant. At the time police sought the warrant, officers were in search of a felon wanted for Unlawful Use of a Weapon. Based on the strength of evidence provided by police, a Cook County judge assented to the warrant.

Following the approval of the “John Doe” warrant, police officers entered Young’s home, where a bewildered and unclothed Ms. Young cried out in anguish and demanded to know reasons for the police intrusion. Police error, it required only minutes for officers to realize they had committed a mistake and arrived at the wrong address.

Why did Chicago take the extreme step and pay Ms. Young $2.9 million?

By now, most of Chicago is familiar with Anjanette Young and both how and why her name has been permanently implanted in the city’s consciousness. Yet to fully grasp the events which climaxed with the City of Chicago handing over nearly $3 million to Ms. Young, it is necessary to navigate the bramble thicket of distortions, falsehoods, and anti-police prejudice surrounding the incident created by Chicago’s unprincipled media, community activists, and irresponsible critics of police.

A story in which the seeds were sown as far back as December 2020, the unfortunate incident at Young’s home was captured on police body-cam and is, at times, difficult to watch. However, most of what Chicago understands about the errant search warrant originated with CBS2 newsreader, Dave “Scoop” Savini. A man who judges facts to his own prerogative, Savini’s entire coverage of the incident was carefully choreographed to depict the 11th District Tactical Team as a troupe of bumbling schlemiels who backslapped one another and enjoyed a laugh at Ms. Young’s expense after entering her home and discovering her in a state of undress.  

Intent notwithstanding, if a high-definition lens is placed over police body-worn camera of the incident, the conclusions Savini attempts to draw for viewers are unsupported by video evidence. While it is indisputable police entered the wrong home, from the moment CPD entered Ms. Young’s house until officers departed, video clearly demonstrates police were professional and treated the homeowner with respect and compassion.

For example: Though Savini mentions Ms. Young was unclothed when police entered, he declined to explain police procedure, which is critical to safeguard police and both civilians and subjects sought in law enforcement operations. Moreover, explaining police procedure would have similarly clarified precisely why Young was handcuffed while unclothed and why she remained unclad, briefly, after police entered her home. Savini, however, had other intentions, and none were sympathetic to Chicago police.

According to one veteran Chicago police officer with extensive experience in serving search warrants, established police procedure for entering a home follows five standard steps: Knock, announce, enter, search, and secure. Once a home entered by CPD is judged “secure,” the warrant is presented to the homeowner and officers complete what is referred to as a thorough “systematic” search for an individual, drugs or weapons sought by police.

While a home targeted for a search warrant tends to buzz with confusion in the immediate aftermath of entry by police, when the 11th District Tactical Team entered Young’s home, she was handcuffed and almost immediately covered by officers. Although Savini’s reporting was intent on maligning police as a horde of impulsive, trigger-happy lunatics for pointing weapons at Young, he neglected to inform viewers police use of weapons and the handcuffing any individual found inside a home during the execution of a search warrant is a standard safety precaution taken to ensure the security of everyone involved. Police were, obviously, unaware of the number of individuals in Young’s home prior to entry, but had every reason to assume a firearm, if not multiple firearms, were in the home.

Furthermore, despite all of Savini’s overwrought coverage, the CBS2 newsreader rarely, if ever, mentioned it required police approximately 16 seconds to cover Ms. Young after entering and securing her home. Savini, predictably, preferred his audience to believe police are sadistic voyeurs who derived pleasure from witnessing a vulnerable, unclothed woman. Though these inconvenient facts were in plain view on body-worn video, in his biased narration of the Young incident, Savini only glancingly mentioned the fact one officer is seen standing next to Young, clutching a blanket around her to prevent it from dropping off in front of officers present. Hardly the gesture of an inhumane man, officers were also seen leaving the home voluntarily and at the direction of the officer in charge out of courtesy to Young. A video recording subsequently shows officers were embarrassed and expressed remorse for the error, as well as empathy for Ms. Young, as one officer is clearly heard asking with concern if she had been covered.  

While much of Savini’s coverage revolves around Ms. Young in a state of undress and handcuffed, Savini also obsessed over the time it required Young to be escorted into her room and allowed to dress herself. While Ms. Young’s emotional turmoil is entirely justifiable, part of the blame for her remaining only partially clothed for the period of ten minutes after police entered her home must fall on Young herself. Despite furious yet patient attempts by police to calm her, officers were exposed to Young’s uncontrollable rage and refusal to compose herself as officers attempted to explain their presence.

Ms. Young’s repeated outbursts at police only prolonged her state of partial dress as they repeatedly attempted to verify information which required confirmation from her. While video plainly shows Young continually lashing out and asserting CPD had entered the wrong home, the video also sheds light on police professionalism as officers attempt to comfort her and sooth her anger, despair, and anguish. The height of police professionalism, though officers at Young’s home demonstrated an ability to cope with any individual in any state of mind, and under any circumstance, Savini’s desired message, a preconceived narrative, was police intended to humiliate Ms. Young.

By whom was Ms. Young humiliated?

Almost two years passed before CBS2 obtained police body-worn video of the incident at Young’s home and broadcast it around the globe. Though the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) was preoccupied with another one if its ponderous, get-the-cops investigations over the matter, Ms. Young and her attorney, Keenan Saulter, played a pivotal role in the events which led to Young's public humiliation.

Prior to CBS2’s initial news story on CPD’s errant execution of the search warrant, in a legal maneuver, Young declined to cooperate with COPA’s inquiry by refusing to submit a sworn statement to the police oversight agency. While a federal court placing a protective order on the release of the body-worn video had little to do with liability on the City of Chicago’s part, the city did have sound concerns with its potential release.

First, City Hall preferred to insulate the video from the public out of concern for any potential political fallout. Though Mayor Lightfoot referred to the Young incident as "Rahm's raid," it was later revealed the mayor was aware of CPD's mistaken entry into Young's home as early as November 2019. Second, Chicago was also legitimately anxious over what was certain to create a media circus should the tape be released. Third, Chicago did genuinely consider Ms. Young’s privacy and sought to protect her over the sensitivity of the images captured on the tape. Last, City Hall was concerned release of the body-worn video could taint a potential jury.

While CPOA conducted its probe, on November 1, 2019, Ms. Young filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all CPD body-worn camera footage of police entering her home. The City of Chicago denied the request 18 days later. The same day Ms. Young was informed her FOIA request was denied, CBS2 producer Samah Assad received notification the CPD had denied a request for body-worn video of what occurred at Young’s home. Days after Assad was advised by the city it would not accommodate her FOIA, COPA, too, responded similarly, denying Assad’s request for the video.

Though it could be a mere coincidence, because the response from Chicago to FOIA petitioners fell in such proximity, it is fair to speculate Ms. Young was quietly coordinating with CBS2 and Dave Savini as early as November 2019 to release police video to the public. While Chicago continued to withhold body-worn video, when Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to obtain the tape and in a grave breach to a court order, Saulter released the body-worn video allowing Savini to broadcast it to the world.

Following CBS2 airing the video, one outstanding question remained: Why would Ms. Young authorize the release of a video in which she was certain to suffer humiliation and loss of dignity in front of a wide audience? A plausible answer to this question is that Young sought leverage to create a mania and compel City Hall to embrace her demands for a seven-figure settlement.

A jigsaw puzzle always has a few missing pieces, but a conclusive picture has emerged in which Young approved release of the video as an opening salvo in a preemptive campaign launched for a financial resolution. Over the next several months, Ms. Young manipulated the force of the video to receive wall-to-wall media coverage over her experience, and publicly flay Mayor Lightfoot.

A pursuit for a settlement in which the goal dictated the tactics, Young’s attorney, Keenan Saulter, placed a racial frame around the incident, telling CBS2:  

"If this had a been a young woman in Lincoln Park, by herself, in her home, naked, a young white woman, let’s just be frank, if the reaction would have been the same. I don’t think it would have been. I think they would had saw that woman, rightfully so, as someone who was vulnerable, someone who deserved protection, someone who deserved to have their dignity maintained. They viewed Ms. Young as less than human."

Though race played no role in the events which unfolded inside Young’s home, Saulter’s soapbox agitation cleverly pandered to all the emotional soft spots of the viewing audience to build popular support for Ms. Young. Though an unwholesome tactic, it ultimately prevailed and Young was lionized by local media as a troubadour of social activism and police reform, and whose words were the soundtrack of the struggle for long-suffering victims of “police misconduct.”

The $2.9-million settlement was a shakedown

It is true Anjanette Young did undergo an unsettling experience when police entered her home in February 2019 and she deserves redress. Yet instead of the $2.9 million bounty she received, Ms. Young deserves no more than $50,000. The amount of $50,000 is fair, just, and the standard for the error police committed. Though Young can credibly claim she suffered emotionally, her contention that she feared for her life in the presence of Chicago police is an absurdity. As well, it is also ridiculous for Ms. Young to maintain she was humiliated by CPD. On the contrary, Ms. Young’s greatest humiliation was self-inflicted when she gave a blessing to CBS2 to air the CPD body-worn video around the world.  

Police error has an order of magnitude, and when Chicago police officers mistakenly entered Young’s home, it was a minimal error. Fortunately, neither Young nor any officer were injured. According to one Chicago police officer involved in the serving of over 1,000 search warrants, instances in which CPD enter the wrong home is extremely rare. Furthermore, according to officers, police frequently enter homes and encounter two people in the act of concubitus, some shooting up heroin, or playing video games. Police also describe entering homes in which individuals sought by police order feral dogs to attack officers, are armed with weapons or attempt escape. Executing a search warrant can be a hazardous job.      

Though the incident at Young’s home should never be considered meaningless, only a door was broken and no officer should face disciplinary action for what occurred.

As Chicago picks up the pieces in the aftermath of the Anjanette Young story, we still learned a great deal about media figures, litigants, attorneys, and search warrants. For one, Chicago residents learned investigative newsreaders and attorneys have their clubby ways of doing business together. From media coverage of the Young incident, Chicago learned that while Dave Savini and his WBBM chums can count to 43, newsreaders often fail to do the most the basic research on CPD procedure. Misdirection, omission, and obscurantism were also found to be essential to the craft of covering stories about Chicago police.

The Young incident also unfortunately reaffirmed there is no shortage of unscrupulous attorneys in Chicago and it's now acceptable for them to pick and choose which court rulings are to be observed or ignored. We also learned the City of Chicago always has someone willing to deliberately subject themselves to a humiliation in the hot pursuit of cold, hard cash.

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