How $25 IL Traffic Case Led to Jail, Brain Damage

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Outside a Chicago medical clinic last summer, Tyler Lumar told police he’d had enough. Officers were called after Lumar, a 22-year-old with asthma there for a first visit after his longtime doctor died, yelled and allegedly threatened a physician who refused to refill his cough medicine prescription, then tossed papers on the floor and said he would come back and shoot the place up. “I’m so tired of racism, bro,” Lumar said. The incident began when the doctor accused Lumar, who has no criminal record, of reselling his prescription drugs, the Chicago Tribune reports. “That’s racial profiling. I don’t gangbang…”

Police let Lumar go, but moments later the same officers stopped him because a western Illinois county had issued a warrant over an overdue $25 payment in a traffic case but had failed to remove the warrant when Lumar paid up. Less than 24 hours later, he attempted to hang himself in a police holding cell. As a result, he’s suffered massive brain injuries and can no longer move or speak; he’s spent the past year on life support, racking up medical bills of $2 million. His family has tried to determine why he was kept locked up overnight on a low-level warrant even though he had the cash to bail himself out. They filed a federal lawsuit alleging Lumar was wrongfully detained and that Chicago police failed to check on him every 15 minutes in his cell. The case is not only another example of the city and county’s alleged failure to keep nonviolent offenders from languishing in jails but also highlights the tightrope that defendants walk even in misdemeanor cases, where a slightly late payment can land someone in jail.

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