Ride-Along Student Sues Claiming He Was Groped By Chicago Firefighter

A paramedic student at Malcolm X College who claims a Chicago firefighter inappropriately touched him and made lewd remarks during a ride-along, has filed suit against the city and the now fired firefighter. Identified in the suit as John Doe, the student alleges that during a ride along on July 20, 2018 at Engine 126 and Truck 49, firefighter James Regan grabbed his genitals and suggested they take a shower together.

Doe claims he complained to other firefighters, and was told Regan was only joking. After he reported the matter to the police, he claims the officers and firefighters lied about the incident.

As explained in the complaint:

  • On July 20, 2018, at approximately 6:30 p.m., PLAINTIFF and REGAN were sitting next to each other at the dinner table at Chicago Fire Department 126/Truck 49.
  • REGAN asked PLAINTIFF if PLAINTIFF wanted to get in the shower with DEFENDANT REGAN.
  • REGAN told PLAINTIFF there was a pool in the basement of Chicago Fire Department 126/Truck 49.
  • REGAN said to PLAINTIFF, “I can teach you how to swim naked.”
  • REGAN said to PLAINTIFF, “I can teach you how to play Marco Polo naked.”
  • REGAN put his hand on PLAINTIFF’S left leg.
  • REGAN put his hand on PLAINTIFF’S genitals.
  • REGAN grabbed PLAINTIFF’S genitals.
  • PLAINTIFF did not consent to being touched by DEFENDANT REGAN.
  • When REGAN grabbed PLAINTIFF’S genitals, PLAINTIFF’S movement was restricted.
  • When REGAN grabbed PLAINTIFF’S genitals, PLAINTIFF was not free to leave.
  • After REGAN grabbed PLAINTIFF’S genitals, PLAINTIFF informed other Chicago Fire Department personnel at Chicago Fire Department Engine 126/Truck 49.
  • In response, at least four Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs arrived at Chicago Fire Department Engine 126/Truck 49.
  • PLAINTIFF told the Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel that he wanted to report the conduct of REGAN.
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel tried to threaten and coerce PLAINTIFF into not reporting the conduct of REGAN.
  • Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel told PLAINTIFF, “It was just firehouse horseplay.”
  • Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Dan Mullaney told PLAINTIFF, “He [REGAN] was just playing around.”
  • Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel told PLAINTIFF that REGAN wanted to apologize.
  • PLAINTIFF told the Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel that he wanted to call the police.
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel tried to threaten and coerce PLAINTIFF into not calling the police.
  • PLAINTIFF called the police and the police arrived.
  • After the police arrived, multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel tried to discredit PLAINTIFF.
  • A Chicago Fire Department Captain, referring to PLAINTIFF, told police, “This motherfucker doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel lied to the police.
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel actively impeded a police investigation.
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel actively tried to cover up for the actions of REGAN.
  • Multiple Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chiefs and other personnel told police that they did not know who allegedly touched PLAINTIFF. This was false, as the Battalion Chiefs and other personnel knew that REGAN had touched PLAINTIFF

The suit was filed in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois last week, alleging a violation of the Fourth Amendment (Unlawful Seizure Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983); an Indemnification Claim Pursuant to 745 ILCS 10/9-102; and a Monell Claim (alleging a violation of Doe’s due process rights under a “pattern and practice” of the city). The Monell “pattern and practice” claim alleges that a “code of silence” exists among firefighters “preventing the free flow of honest information with regard to acts of misconduct.” The complaint further mentions a series of high-profile incidents in the Chicago Fire Department, including:

  • Since 2008, the Chicago Fire Department has paid out nearly $92 million in workplace discrimination lawsuits.
  • On November 1, 2011, then-Captain Mark Altman of the Chicago Fire Department swore at and then violently threw to the ground twice Chicago Police Officer and marine diver Joseph Smith during a water rescue in the Chicago River.
  • A federal jury found Captain Altman liable for these acts on October 24, 2014. A judgment of $1,331,779.15 was entered against Captain Altman.
  • That jury found that Captain Altman should pay to Mr. Smith $5,000.00 in punitive damages.
  • Captain Altman paid the punitive damages award.
  • Mr. Smith settled with the City of Chicago for $1,122,490.00 in compensatory damages.
  • Mr. Smith’s attorneys were paid $479,334.03 in attorneys’ fees by the City of Chicago.
  • Captain Altman was never demoted in connection with the injuries he inflicted onto Joseph Smith.
  • Captain Altman was never disciplined in connection with the injuries he inflicted onto Joseph Smith.
  • After Captain Altman paid the punitive damages award, he was then promoted within the Chicago Fire Department.
  • As a result of the injuries that Mr. Smith sustained from the use of excessive force by Captain Altman, Mr. Smith underwent two surgeries, one to his neck and one to his back.
  • Jennifer Manzella, a civilian, engaged in sexual acts for money with Chicago Fire Department firefighters at Engine 11.
  • On January 20, 2018, approximately a dozen Chicago Fire Department firefighters were disciplined for allowing another firefighter to engage in sexual acts at a firehouse on the South Side of Chicago.
  • On April 6, 2018, a Chicago Fire Department paramedic was placed on leave because he repeatedly masturbated in full view of his coworkers at a firehouse on the South Side of Chicago.
  • Chief Raney of the Chicago Fire Department made sexual remarks to and requested sexual favors from a female Chicago Fire Department paramedic. Raney demanded a sexual relationship from the paramedic, referencing “blow jobs” in his communications with her.
  • Chicago Fire Department firefighter George Olifer sexually harassed a Chicago Fire Department paramedic and posted a picture of her in her bra and underwear on Facebook, without her consent.
  • Ambulance Commander George Bedon repeatedly made sexually suggestive statements to three separate paramedics of the Chicago Fire Department and physically touched and attempted to kiss them without consent.
  • Bedon made sexually suggestive statements to these Chicago Fire Department paramedics, including: “What color are your nipples?”, “Do you wear a thong?”, “What kind of underwear are you wearing?”, “I can tell what kind of underwear you’re wearing,” that they “looked good,” and that they had a “good body.”
  • On November 3, 2017, Eric Heard, who served as a deliveryman for a local delivery service, delivered bunker gear to Captain John Jakubec of the Chicago Fire Department. At that time, Captain Jakubec grabbed Mr. Heard’s buttocks, struck Mr. Heard on the head, grabbed Mr. Heard’s delivery receipt, rubbed it on Captain Jakubec’s genitals, and made sexual noises. Captain Jakubec’s coworkers at the Chicago Fire Department lied to Internal Affairs investigators about the incident in an attempt to cover up Captain Jakubec’s misconduct.
  • On March 28, 2018, Chicago Fire Department Firefighter John Copeland was punched in the face twice by his superior, Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Leonard Johnson. As a result of the incident, Lieutenant Johnson was found guilty of criminal battery.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, Regan was fired by the city and lost his appeal.

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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