Family of teen shot during attempted robbery at Marie’s Pizza files suit against off-duty officer, sheriff and county
Online Staff Report
The family of the late Michael DeAngelo Sago Jr. filed a lawsuit in federal court Sept. 28 against the off-duty police officer who shot the teen-ager 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 allegations. 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 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 men left the scene, Sago Jr. tried to leave the scene. Pobjecky shot Sago Jr. 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 across from SwedishAmerican Hospital on Charles Street, and lay bleeding in the parking lot until he died. The lawsuit alleges Pobjecky did nothing to provide medical care to Sago Jr.
The complaint, filed by Chicago civil rights attorney Basileios “Bill” Foutris on behalf of the victim’s family, charges Pobjecky and 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 the filing.
In a statement released by his department several weeks after the shootings occurred, Meyers said he believed 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.”
“Were it not for the gross misconduct of Frank Pobjecky, Michael Sago Jr. would be alive today,” Foutris alleged. “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.”
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 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).
Posted Sept. 28, 2012
Print This Article