Lawsuit: Hazing left Bartlett police officer suffering nightmares

A Bartlett police officer targeted by colleagues in an August 2014 hazing ritual is suing the village and several of its leaders, alleging it caused physical and emotional injuries that left him struggling for years with nightmares and flashbacks.

Gzim Selmani of South Elgin also alleges in the federal lawsuit that he was placed on unpaid leave from the department after reporting the hazing last year and has not been allowed back to work. The report led to an investigation that resulted in eight Bartlett Police Department employees serving suspensions.

The suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Chicago, seeks undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages, full reinstatement to the force, and reimbursement for legal costs and past and future medical costs.

Besides the village, named defendants include Village President Kevin Wallace, Police Chief Patrick Ullrich, and police commanders Steven Winterstein, Will Naydenoff and Michael Rummell.

"It's the village's position that it's done nothing wrong and (the village) intends to rigorously defend the litigation," Bartlett's employment counsel Bob Smith said Monday.

In his lawsuit, Selmani states he was one of two members of the department's Specialized Emergency Action Response team shot with 30 to 50 rounds of simulated ammunition by a group of colleagues at the end of an August 2014 training exercise.

The shooting left Selmani with injuries that included swelling, bruising and bleeding to his arms and legs, discoloration of his skin and protrusion of veins where he was struck by the bullets, the suit states.

Selmani's attorney, Thomas Radja, Jr., said that while his client was once simply looking for a way to heal and get back to his job, his remaining in law enforcement now seems unlikely. He described Selmani's state of mind after the hazing as a "slow burn" that led to his resignation from the SPEAR team and subsequent reporting of the incident.

"This isn't about winning the lottery," Radja said. "I think his best option is just to be treated fairly and get better. For me, I think people need to understand that different people react differently to different circumstances."

The hazing allegations last year led Ullrich to hire an independent investigator to look into the claims. Upon the investigation's completion in May, Ullrich announced the suspensions of eight department employees and the disbanding of the SPEAR team.

On April 2, 2019, while the hazing investigation was in progress, Selmani was told he would be placed on paid administrative leave, according to the lawsuit. But the following day, he was told he instead would go on unpaid leave until April 20 due to a "personal medical condition" and he could no longer enter any nonpublic area of the police department.

According to the suit, Selmani remains in limbo with the department, which is not paying him salary or benefits, but also has declined to pay out his retirement because it does not consider the employment relationship terminated.

"It's whatever's convenient," Radja said of the village's position. "That's the frustrating part."

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