Jury deliberations begin in CPD whistleblower case tied to 2017 police shooting


CHICAGO — Jury deliberations began Tuesday afternoon in a whistleblower case brought against the city by a veteran Chicago police sergeant who claims he was retaliated against after voicing concern about a controversial 2017 police shooting.

Sgt. Isaac Lambert brought his lawsuit against the city in 2019, alleging that he was removed from the CPD’s Detective Division after he raised concerns about the legality of the shooting of Ricardo Hayes by off-duty CPD Sgt. Khalil Muhammad in August 2017. Hayes — an unarmed 18-year-old with autism — was reported missing from his home a few hours before he was shot.

Lambert’s reassignment to the CPD’s Patrol Division, his attorneys argue, violated the Illinois Whistleblower Act. Attorneys for the city, however, maintain that Lambert was removed from the Detective Division because he was an inattentive supervisor who demonstrated poor judgment when he assigned two rookie detectives to investigate the shooting.

In her closing argument, Lambert’s attorney Megan O’Malley asked jurors to award the sergeant between $1.75 – $2.75 million in damages, plus another $55,000 in lost overtime wages.

“The lies have to stop here,” O’Malley told the jury, “And you have the privilege of saying ‘enough is enough.’”

“This is the code of silence at work,” Torreya Hamilton, another of Lambert’s attorneys, said during her rebuttal argument. “If you keep your mouth shut, if you actually take affirmative action to help the officer or try in some way to cover up his illegal activity, you are rewarded. If you speak out, you’re punished.”

J.T. Wilson III delivered the city’s closing argument — telling jurors that Lambert’s suspicions about the shooting, which he raised in a meeting with other police department leaders, were based on information that he received second-hand.

“It all came from someone else,” Wilson said. “So if all the information he had came from someone else, he’s not disclosing any information. He’s having a conversation about what’s already known by others. The conversations he had, they’re not protected by the Illinois Whistleblower Act.”

Wilson said that the city does not believe Lambert is entitled to any damages, but he conceded that some jurors may disagree. Should they feel Lambert is entitled to damages, Wilson suggested jurors award him no more than $143,500.

During the first week of trial, Lambert testified that, in the hours after the shooting, he sought to protect Hayes from unwarranted scrutiny from investigators, some of whom wanted Hayes — who was recently reported missing from home — charged with a felony after he was shot by Muhammad.

“I didn’t do what they wanted me to do,” CPD Sgt. Isaac Lambert said. “I did what was right and I got screwed.”

After Muhammad shot Hayes, the teen’s family filed a lawsuit against the city that was later settled for more than $2 million. The Chicago Police Board later ordered Muhammad suspended for six months. Another civil suit tied to the Hayes shooting, also filed against the city by a former CPD supervisor, is still pending in Cook County Circuit Court.

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