Exonerated Arlington Heights man sues Wheeling and other police departments

  • Rafael Orozco, 23, seen here with Mayra Ceniceros, 21, was walking his dog at his Wheeling apartment complex when he was shot to death on May 1, 2013.

    Rafael Orozco, 23, seen here with Mayra Ceniceros, 21, was walking his dog at his Wheeling apartment complex when he was shot to death on May 1, 2013. courtesy of Mayra Ceniceros

Updated 4/16/2019 8:54 AM

An Arlington Heights man whose conviction for the 2013 murder of Wheeling's Rafael Orozco was reversed by the Illinois Appellate Court last year has filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully detained and interrogated by Wheeling police officers and representatives from several other suburban police departments.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys on behalf of Jesús Sanchez, also said Sanchez was "physically and psychologically" coerced into making self-incriminating statements over the 12-hour interrogation.


The Evanston, Wilmette, Lincolnwood and Skokie police departments also were named in the recently filed lawsuit.

Sanchez's conviction was reversed a little more than a year ago after he had been in prison for almost five years, and his 45-year sentence was set aside.

The complaint alleges "police detectives repeatedly intimidated Jesús, lied to him about the evidence they falsely claimed incriminated him (and) forced him to make inculpatory and false statements."

According to the complaint, detectives did not give Sanchez his Miranda warnings advising him of his right to remain silent and did not record the interrogation as Illinois law requires.

Wheeling police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sanchez seeks "compensation for the nearly five years he spent unjustly in prison and for the extreme emotional anguish and distress he suffered from his wrongful detention, coercive interrogation, false charges, wrongful prosecution, and wrongful conviction and incarceration for a crime ... he did not commit," according to the complaint, which also says Sanchez seeks compensation for the physical pain and emotional anguish he endured while incarcerated.

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In its April 2018 ruling, the appellate court held "the evidence convincingly shows that Sanchez did not murder Orozco," whom authorities described as an innocent bystander. Orozco, 23, was struck in the back by a bullet as he walked his dog on May 1, 2013, in Wheeling's Winetree Apartment complex.

Prosecutors argued Sanchez, then 18, fired at a teenage gang member who authorities say had switched his allegiance from one gang to another.

Defense attorneys argued no witnesses saw Sanchez fire a weapon, no evidence linked him to the crime and the evidence did not match his statement to police. They say police targeted him because he had been involved in several altercations earlier that day.

Appellate court justices found Sanchez "did not voluntarily make the statements" prosecutors relied on for conviction and, as a result, those statements should have been suppressed.

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