A mother has filed a lawsuit against the officers who fatally shot her son who was firing two guns into the air in Buffalo Grove, saying the officers failed to use non-lethals to subdue him.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by Kristine Howard, who is representing herself, in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois.
The suit names the Village of Buffalo Grove and Buffalo Grove Police Department, along with two officers and a 911 dispatcher, as defendants.
The Buffalo Grove Police Department responded to a 911 call around 12:29 a.m. December 2, 2021, for a report of a man with a gun in the area of Radcliffe Road and Boxwood Lane in Buffalo Grove.
According to the 911 call, which was released last year, the caller reported, “There’s a dude standing out there and he’s all crazy.”
The caller told a dispatcher that the man was armed with a 9mm handgun and a .45 caliber handgun. “The dude just popped off two rounds,” the caller told dispatchers.
The caller also told the dispatcher “[…] this guy is dangerous so don’t — just use a lethal instead of a non-lethal.”
When the dispatcher asked the caller who the gunman was, the caller stated, “Well that would be me.”
The caller was later identified as Brian Christopher Howard, 25, of Elgin.
Howard told the dispatcher he loves “everything that they do,” referring to police officers, and said, “But I’m a bad dude and it’s about time that I get what’s coming.”
The dispatcher asked the man numerous times to drop his weapons as the officers were responding but Howard refused.
“I mean, I just flashed off a 9 and a .45 so I’m going to jail regardless, and that’s the thing for me so just tell them to shoot to kill,” Howard said during the call.
Dashcam video, which was also released last year, shows officers rushing to the scene with their lights and sirens activated.
The first officer to arrive on the scene located Howard behind a vacant church at 1250 Radcliffe Road.
Howard was holding two handguns and began walking toward the officers. The man then started shooting both guns into the air, the video showed.
Officers Jon Officer and Ross Valstyn gave Howard commands to stop but he refused and continued walking towards them while still holding the guns.
“Hands up! Put your hands up! Stop! Stop moving!” an officer yelled at Howard, according to the video.
Officer Jon Officer fired seven rounds from his handgun but did not strike the man. Officer Ross Valstyn fired three shots from a rifle, striking Howard once in the chest.
The officers performed CPR on him but paramedics pronounced Howard dead at the scene.
No one else was injured during the incident but the two officers involved were transported to the hospital for observation.
The two officers are seasoned officers and were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard protocol, then-Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steven Casstevens said at the time.
“No officer ever wants to take the life of another person. That being said, officers are often placed in split-second decisions where they are forced to take action that unfortunately results in deadly force,” Casstevens said at a press conference following the shooting.
The lawsuit filed by Kristine Howard, who is the mother of Brian Howard, said the man had “no intention of hurting anyone” and was in a suicidal state.
“Brian Howard at no point injured anyone and had no intentions of hurting anyone, this is evidenced by his placement in an empty park at 12:30am, his own statements to the 911 operator, and journal entries he made prior to these events,” the complaint said.
The suit claimed the 911 dispatcher and officers made no attempt to save Howard’s life.
“Officer Ross Valstyn and Officer Jon Officer had non-lethal options that they could have chosen to use, they instead chose to kill an innocent man who was suffering a mental health issue,” the complaint said.
The Lake County Major Crime Task Force led the investigation and the case was reviewed by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Earlier this year, the state’s attorney’s office released a decision memorandum saying they were not going to be charging the two officers involved.
“In this case, however, the evidence shows that Officer Valstyn and Officer Jon Officer each had a reasonable belief that Brian Howard put both officers in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death,” the office said in the memo.
The state’s attorney’s office referred the case to the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor. That office also concurred that no criminal charges were appropriate.
An initial court hearing in the civil lawsuit has not been set yet, court records show.