Chicago, IL – The family of a teen who was accidently wounded when a Des Plaines police officer fatally shot an active shooter in 2019 is suing the police department over the shooting.
The gunman, 32-year-old Christopher Willis, was an alleged bank robber who shot a Chicago police officer in the head before aiming his rifle at Des Plaines Police Officer Jimmy Armstrong inside Upbeat Music and Arts on Nov. 19, 2019, WGN reported.
Rylan Wilder, 15, was accidently wounded during the chaotic incident.
According to police, the chain of events leading up to the encounter at the music store began when Willis robbed a bank in Des Plaines, carjacked a woman, and led officers on a chase into the Old Irving Park area of Chicago, WLS reported.
He crashed the stolen car outside the music store before he bailed out and opened fire on the pursuing officers, striking a 46-year-old Chicago police officer in the head, investigators said.
Willis then ran into the nearby music store with Officer Armstrong following closely behind.
Security footage showed the armed suspect as he raced through the store towards the rear exit, WGN reported.
Willis raised his rifle as he reached the back door, at which point Officer Armstrong opened fire, killing him.
“The majority of the gunshot wounds entered on Willis’ front, supporting that Willis was facing Officer Armstrong when the officer shot the rifle,” the Illinois State Police (ISP) Crime Lab determined.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s Law Enforcement Accountability Division determined the shooting was justified, WGN reported.
“Willis had just shot an officer in the head and had previously displayed his gun during the armed robbery and aggravated vehicular hijacking,” the state’s attorney’s report read. “Thus, Officer Armstrong reasonably believed that when Willis pointed the gun at him — he would shoot.”
But in the chaos of the harrowing confrontation, Officer Armstrong never saw Wilder, who was working at the music store at the time, WGN reported.
When the officer fired at Willis, Wilder was also shot.
“The angles in the videos support Officer Armstrong’s statement that while he was focused to his right firing at Willis, he did not see [Wilder] to his left,” the state’s attorney’s office concluded. “Thus, there is no credible evidence to indicate that Officer Armstrong intended to shoot [Wilder].”
The teen was rushed to a local hospital and survived his wounds, but still has not regained full use of his arm, WGN reported.
He has gone through at least 14 surgeries on to his abdomen and arm to repair the damage caused by the bullet that hit him.
Wilder’s family claimed the Des Plaines Police Department (DPPD) has not acknowledged the accidental shooting or apologized for wounding the teen, WGN reported.
“I don’t want to say they ruined my life, but they took away a huge part of it that I loved and they just don’t say anything,” Wilder told the news outlet.
The Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s Office said the Office of the State Appellate Prosecutor also agreed that no charges would be filed against Officer Armstrong.
“The parties involved have been notified of this decision,” the state’s attorney said in a statement to WGN.
The Chicago police officer who was shot in the head by Willis suffered serious injuries, but he survived the attack.
“We agree with the State’s Attorney’s decision not to file criminal charges against our officer,” Des Plaines Police Chief David Anderson said in a statement to WGN. “Officer Armstrong acted heroically to stop an active shooter who had just committed multiple forceable felonies and shot a Chicago Police officer prior to entering the music school.”
“We recognize the serious injury that occurred to student Rylan Wilder during this dangerous incident,” Chief Anderson added. “The department will not be issuing any further statements about this incident due to ongoing litigation.”
Wilder’s family has filed lawsuits against the DPPD and a second suspect involved in the bank robbery, WGN reported.
The family’s attorney, Tim Cavanagh, claimed Officer Armstrong was “reckless” during the encounter with the active shooter and demanded he be held accountable.
“He had a weapon of war,” Cavanaugh told WGN. “He also had a handgun on him as well, so he chose to fire this AR-15 and that’s what did the horrific damage…it blew a significant hole through Rylan’s arm.”
“Rylan’s life was changed through no fault of his own due to the reckless actions of the Des Plaines police officer,” the attorney said. “We are lucky more kids were not shot as a result of the officer’s reckless actions.”
A fundraising campaign to assist with Wilder’s medical bills has raised over $69,000 so far.