Suit Claims Illinois Firefighters Burned Girl’s Wrist Removing Handcuffs

The mother of a 16-year-old girl who was burned when firefighters cut hand-cuffs off her, has filed suit against the Village of Mundelein. Emily Hitzke filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of her daughter, Ava.

The complaint states that on June 11, 2019, firefighters from the village’s fire department used a power saw to remove the handcuffs from Ava’s left wrist, and that she was burned in the process. It alleges that since Ava was in custody when the injuries occurred, the village is responsible.

Besides the village, the suit names two unidentified police officers as defendants. The two-count complaint alleges a civil right violation under 42 USC §1983 and willful and wanton misconduct.

The facts according to the complaint:

  • On or about June 11, 2019 at approximately 11:00pm the minor Plaintiff, Ava, Hitzke, was socializing with friends at a park known as Dinosaur Park within the limits of the Village of Mundelein, Illinois.
  • At the time and place aforesaid, Defendants, Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 1 and Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 2 approached the juveniles at Dinosaur Park and indicated that the minors must leave the park or they would be arrested for trespassing.
  • After searching the minor Plaintiff, Ava Hitzke, through the computerized criminal database, an outstanding warrant was discovered because the minor Plaintiff had missed a juvenile court appearance for a misdemeanor battery charge.
  • Defendants, Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 1 and Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 2, placed the minor Plaintiff, Ava Hitzke, under arrest, placed her in handcuffs and transported her to the Mundelein Police Department.
  • After a period of time at the Mundelein Police Department Defendants, Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 1 and Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 2 decided to remove the handcuffs.
  • The left handcuff jammed and could not be removed.
  • After no one could remove the left handcuff from the wrist of minor Plaintiff, Ava Hitzke, Defendants, Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 1 and Unknown Village of Mundelein Police Number 2 brought Ava to the garage of the nearby Mundelein Fire Department.
  • Upon arriving at the Mundelein Fire Department, members of the Mundelein Police Department and Mundelein Fire Department attempted to saw off the handcuff utilizing a power saw.
  • As the members of the Mundelein Police Department and Mundelein Fire Department attempted to saw through the handcuff on minor Plaintiff, Ava Hitzke’s the handcuff became heated to an extreme temperature causing significant and severe burns to the minor Plaintiff’s wrist.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $100,000. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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