An Illinois black Muslim has filed suit in federal court claiming that Tinley Park firefighters sprayed him with water in an act of hate and discrimination. Omar Ali, 30, says white firefighters from the Tinley Park Fire Department intentionally sprayed water on him because of his ethnicity or religion, as he walked past their fire station on May 6, 2014.
Chicago Tribune Omar E. Ali is seeking compensatory and punitive damages against the firefighters, attorney’s fees and court costs in connection with the May 6 incident outside Fire Station No. 2. In his lawsuit filed Monday in United States District Court, northern district of Illinois, Ali says he was walking alone on the 7800 block of 167th Street across from the fire station at about 2:30 p.m. when firefighters sprayed him with water from a fire hose. He was across the street at the time, according to the lawsuit.
Ali contends the experience caused him “pain, fear, wetness, discomfort, humiliation and severe emotional distress.” (Oh, Boo Hoo) Ali is represented by Oakbrook Terrace-based attorney Richard Dvorak, who said he took the case because of the racial aspect.
“In this day and age, it shouldn’t be taken lightly if it’s shown that a firefighter used a hose against a black Muslim male,” Dvorak said. Ali maintains the fire department employees targeted him because he was an African-American who was wearing a Muslim headrag at the time.
Ali also wants the three firefighters to be charged with a hate crime under Illinois law, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and “willful and wanton misconduct.” Dvorak said he and Ali intend to ask the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office to file a battery charge against the unnamed firefighter accused of spraying him. Dvorak said they’re also going to the Dept of Justice to request action on the “hate crime” allegation.
Police in neighboring Orland Park upset some in the Muslim community that same year when they removed an alleged child murderer’s hijab for a mugshot.
UPDATE! Now for the Firefighters’ side of the story:
Chicago Tribune (h/t tophtml) A 20-year-old Tinley Park man claimed he was sprayed with a fire department hose while walking by Station No. 2 because he is an Arab-American, according to a police report.
Firefighters told police they were clearing water lines in the station parking lot around 2 p.m. on May 6 and turned off the water after spotting the man behind a tree. They said the man left without comment, the report by Tinley Park police stated. The man returned at 3 p.m. with a man and woman shouting insults and threats and calling the station employees bigots, the report said.
Firefighters summoned police after the man refused to talk to the fire chief, instead demanding employees’ names and badge numbers for the purpose of a racial discrimination lawsuit. The two responding officers reported arriving at the station to find the trio shouting insults and threats at the firefighters.
The man told police the firefighters intentionally sprayed him because he is “negro,” the report stated. Asked why his clothing was dry, the man told police he’d changed clothes at home. Firefighters said the man hadn’t changed his clothes, the police report said.
The trio eventually left after being told they would be cited for trespassing if they remained, the police report said.