An attorney for Ava Thompson Greenwell filed a federal court lawsuit this week claiming her son’s civil rights were violated when he was briefly detained by police invesigating a burglary in their neighborhood Aug. 30.

The lawsuit, filed Sunday by attorney Christopher Cooper, alleges that Evanston Police Officer Mark Buell knew that 13-year-old Diwani Greenwell did not match the description of the burglary suspect when he held and handcuffed him outside the family’s home.

The complaint, which names both Buell and the City of Evanston as defendants, seeks damages for alleged unreasonable search and seizure, false imprisonment, assault and failure by the city to supervise and train Officer Buell.

The complaint includes images from a Facebook page that it claims was created by Officer Buell that the suit alleges are offensive.

One of the images (reproduced above) shows what the suit says appears to be a child tied by the hands and dangling from the inside roof of what the suit claims is an unmarked Evanston police car.

City officials offered no immediate comment on the suit.

Several Evanston aldermen previously had apologized to Greenwell at a City Council committee meeing over the incident, although it was not clear whether their apologies went beyond regret for the inconvenience she and her child suffered as a result of the incident.

The aldermen had urged her to take part in the Police Department investigation of the incident, which has not yet been completed.

In 1996, the Chicago Tribune reported, Buell was injured on duty when he was beaten by a 15-year-old youth during a disturbance in the 1900 block of Jackson Avenue that escalated into a battle between 20 police officers and 100 residents.

Thompson v. Buell

Related stories

Aldermen apologize to parents of kid cops cuffed

Police release tape of search for burglary suspect

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Evanston cops…the only time

    Evanston cops…the only time I see them is when theyre at Starbucks drinking lattes and flirting with customers

    1. Irresponsible comment

      Rick – your comment is totally irresponsible and I hope Bill Smith takes it off Evanston Now.

      Evanston Police do an excellent job given the circumstances and issues they deal with in our community.

      The contact I've had with Evanston Police has always been professional.

  2. This is why aldermen should not have apologized

    You don't think Greenwell's attorneys will use the aldermen's apology as an admission of guilt? Jane Grover, Holmes and Braithwaithe needlessly apologized before the investigation was complete. 

    A 14-year-old boy gunned down in Evanston Saturday night should be a reminder that there is a really bad element in Evanston. Meanwhile, aldermen are apologizing because police temporarily detained a burglary-in-progress suspect by handcuffing him so he won't run in order to give police enough time to bring over the witness for an ID.

    Greenwell is a Northwestern journalism professor and community activist that is looking to paint a black eye on the police force even before the investigation is complete. Evanston taxpayers will foot the attorney fees on this one.

    The image in the unmarked car on Buell's Facebook page is probably some cops blowing off steam. Just because it's on Buell's Facebook page doesn't mean Buell created that image or that the car is even Buell's.

    Take a look at Buell's Facebook page. Buell responds to Nina when she wrote "is that how burb gangstas roll?" Buell responds "Nina, it's gonna be a little toasty outside today. Make sure you drink plenty of hater-ade." Doesn't sound awful to me.

    This is a friviolous lawsuit. If you read the complaint notice how Greenwell's attorneys indicate that Greenwell lives in an upper class neighborhood. Greenwell lives in the 1600 block of Kirk Street near the intersection of Dodge and Oakton. Is that an upper class neighborhood? 

    It's not enough anymore to sit back and complain. Call your aldermen, and VOTE!!!!!!

    1. I agree with Al

      I agree with Al.  I watched her interview on WGN and still feel that the police had the right and responsibility to stop her son.  She thinks he was racially profiled because he was stopped for wearing cargo shorts and because he's black.  Her response was, "Can't you get a better description?"  Numerous studies have shown that witnesses (especially after just being victimized) are sometimes inaccurate.  Offenders can appear taller than they actually are, clothing colors might be different than what they saw, but people do their best .  So no, that is what the police were given as a description and that has to be sufficient.  The crime occurred in that neighborhood, the officer saw someone who matched the description (to the best of his knowledge) and they detained him briefly.  What if her son was the offender?  Somebody's son was the offender. 

      The alderman were WRONG to apologize. 

  3. Poking fun at the Cubs and their fans?

    I see a small drawing of a bear's head on the hat.  Also used are pin striped shirt and pants.

    Was someone poking fun at the Cubs and their fans?  The team has had a pretty pathetic season.

    We would need to see what else was on that page to see the context of the photo.

  4. My Uncle Mark

    So, Im the15 year old niece of Mark Buell. My mother (his sister) informed me of whats going on and I dont understand how he could even be accused of racial discrimination. Im biracial, my mother is caucasian and my father is african american. Every time my uncle hugs me, gives me advice, makes me laugh, or gives me a kiss on the cheek I never feel unwelcome or discriminated against, I feel loved and wanted. Saying that my uncle arrested this young man due to his skin color is obsurd, my uncle has always been kind and fair to everyone he encounters, even people who dont deserve it. Ive always known my uncle as the man who I could come to, even at 3 in the morning, or who would throw himself in front of a bus to not only save his friends and family, but for strangers as well. Im 15 years old, if I can grasp the kindness and fairness of my uncle then I believe that everyone should too. Shame on you Mrs. Thompson for racially profiling my uncle. When you saw a white man you assumed the worst.You never stopped to consider that he was a white man that for the last 15 years has loved,protected and nurtured a black child. Also shame on the media for making a big deal about those things on his Facebook. We have a sense of humor in our family.


    1. Nicely said, Syndey.

      You said what many of us would like to say. I'm sorry that your family is going through this.  Hopefully, people will learn that police cannot maintain law and order if they are constantly afraid of federal lawsuits.  I fear it will result in the police (not just in Evanston, but in other cities as well) declining to act.  That means the rest of us suffer. 

    2. Your uncle Mark….

      Handcuffed a 13 year old child.  I dare say your argument would be different had that been you on the receiving end of those handcuffs. Or let's go one better, if it wasn't your uncle committing the act and your 8th grade friend was on the receiving end. Love, wrong is wrong regardless of how close it hits home. Don't vindicate an act simply because your family member was involved. It doesn't mean you love him any less. It just means you value truth. When people get done trying to trash Mrs. Greenwell and come to the realization she witnessed her own 13 year old son in handcuffs for something he didn't do in front of his own home. . . .it's actually quite sad how that piece seems to be ignored.

      1. No cuffs?


        Are you serious?  Does that mean that the police are never allowed to cuff anyone?  God forbid you or your child were the victim of a robbery or assault, would you not want the police to question/cuff someone in the vicinity who MAY match the description?  Do you let everyone go?  That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.  White kids get detained too. I ask again…what if he had done it?  Then what? 

      2. Response to “T” and to Sydney

        T – THANK GOD we have people like you around to spout your version of reason and ensure our teenagers have every chance to grow up embittered before their time.  

        Sydney – Stand proudly beside those whom your collective personal experiences show to be a positive influence in your life and on society at large.  I applaud you for speaking out on a topic for which you strongly believe.

  5. You could see this coming

    When professor Greenwell appeared on TVa few weeks ago, you could see the $ signs in her eyes.

    There are some people that want to cooperate to improve the process and there are some that reach for a trial lawyer. i hope that Evanston counter files to get Greenwell to pay any expenses Evanston incurrs.

  6. It is racial profiling…

    When a suspect is described as "black teenager", it should be a red flag for police that it is not enough to pursue a case. Would all white kids be stopped (and handvuffed) if a robbery suspect is decribed as "white male"?

    1. Not “racial profiling”

      You obviously didn't read the article or listen to the audio clip. The suspect was described as a "African American, young boy, with cargo shorts and a dark shirt". That's an excellent description that could help officers to recognize potential suspects. So are you saying that describing someones skin color as a means of identification is racist? Your comment is truly ignorant. Anyone with a little common sense would understand that sex, race, and clothing are the best identifiers when looking for a suspect. These "boy who cried wolf" complaints are making a mockery of the complaints and the cases that truly exist with regards to racial profiling.

      1. Justice system

        Regardless of the motivations of the police man and/or the mother of the boy who was detained and handcuffed, and regardless of the amount of detail in the description of the suspect -in my ignorant opinion, race, gender and clothing are not enough…just looking around Evanston any summer day is enough for me to realize that 90% of the kids wear cargo shorts and a shirt that could be considered dark- I am glad we have a justice system that will decide if the lawsuit is unfounded or not. What I think is really ignorant is to arrive to conclusions based on the information provided by the media. I just hope that all those who already decided that the cop is guilty of racial profiling or the mother is guilty of looking for fame are not called for jury duty about this case. We have to defend the mother's right to sue. A judge or jury would be better informed than any of us to decide if the case has merits or not.

    2. Re; It is racial profiling

      I'm pretty sure if the description was a white male teen wearing dark cargo shorts and t-shirt then any white male teens wearing dark cargo shorts and t-shirts withing three blocks from the scene would be stopped. I'm pretty sure if the description was spanish, asian, whatever would be stopped and handled the same way. 

    3. Describe

      RDA –

      Not enough to pursue the case!?  Please tell that to the robbery victim.  Or any other victim of any other crime, by a white, black, orange, green teenager, adult, whatever.

      Enough.  Stop leaning on the race card. 

      My god, let the EPD do their job.  How on earth do you think they are supposed to describe a suspect to patrolling units?

      Do they need to call you first for approval? 

      Tell us, if you were the dispatcher, how would you describe a suspect after a crime was committed?  How would you articulate a statement from the victim of the crime as to the perpetrator? How? 

      What is your PC liberal way?

      No, actually, just let them go and let crime happen for fear we will insult someone.


  7. Playing race card is sad

    It's 2012 and for people to still use the racial card is pretty sad. I don't understand why this woman can't look at the bigger picture and appreciate the fact that this man was doing his job.

    Race has never been and will never be an issue for Mark Buell. People are having the nerve to judge him based upon his Facebook page, well then should he file a lawsuit against those people? Facebook is a place where people goof around and let their inner dork out.

    I for one am happy that this man was doing his job and protecting and serving as his job requires.

    The media frenzy around this is just sad and should be spent covering real news,not a woman just trying to get her 15  minutes of fame.

    Mark Buell keep doing a great job as a police officer for the city of Evanston and thank you for risking your life to protect ours.

  8. Even white collar criminals put in handcuffs

    I don't know about Evanston or Chicago but in NY Spitzer put white collar criminals in handcuffs and paraded before the press.  Many of these were not even charged, charges dropped or courts did not find guilty.  Of course he used this for publicity. 

    Were Ryan and Blogo handcuffed ?

  9. Race is not an issue

    I think now adays race is not an issue any more. I was driving yesterday on Ridge near Evanston Hospital at about 12:19 when suddenly a car passed mine just as a police officer was pulling out of a driveway. The officer reached me half a block down and asked me if that car just went around me, I answered yes. She said that's what I thought   When I reached Ridge & Lake, I saw the officer had already stopped the car driven by a doctor.

     I don't think they are looking for race, color, or gender. Officers are just doing their job and we all should be thankful.

    1. Statistically speaking…

      Actually, most studies done on arrests, search, conviction, incarceration and length/harshness of penalty have proven that there is a statistically significant bias against minorities (specifically blacks and hispanics). There are many, many studies which prove this. Just google "studies, race, police, bias." A list of relevant, recent, peer reviewed studies will come up. Even better: search DOJ or other non-partisan information gatherers like drugwarfacts.org. These groups just review and publish the actual numbers. They show the % difference in arrest rates for crimes by different ethnicities and races after controlling for everything they can think of (likelihood of someone of a specific race to commit said crime, etc).

      So yes. Race is an issue. Whether or not it was an issue in this particular case, I can't say. But in general, there is a proven bias against minorities.

      1. Statistics

        As Twain said: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics"

        Correlation does not necessarily imply causality. There are a variety of reasons why there may be a higher incidence. Race may not be the only variable.

        1. Dismissing Data?

          Love Twain – definitely one of my favorite authors. And also one of the best at twisting words and meaning.

          I don't think any argument is well-served by dismissing relevant data. That's saying that the numbers and facts are nice, but you'd really prefer to go with your gut… and your gut is telling you that the data doesn't agree with it. Also, possibly that sandwich you ate an hour ago. But definitely the data too.

          More seriously, these peer reviewed articles are looking at correlation and causation. Causation, particularly with a topic like this, is very difficult to prove, but adjacent studies that look at race and individuals' reactions to people of different races indicate that race is a significant factor. This is not to say that the police and others don't have logical, plausible, non-racist motivations for their actions – I'm sure they do. But there's more to it than that.

          This is an institutionalized problem, one that has hundreds, even thousands of studies that very clearly show: race is a factor. A big one. A statistically significant one. Continuing to deny it, arguing that there are other variables at play, ignores the fact that racism exists and that it has an impact on people of color.



          1. OK, but…

            Let's just say that race is a factor.  And, let's just say race will always be a factor.  Are police supposed to refrain from stopping a kid who is in the vicinity of where a crime occurred?  Because he is black?  And, it might be considered racial profiling? Is it better to let a potential suspect go (to avoid a lawsuit) or  err on the side of caution?  Nobody has answered my question.

            What if they'd refrained from stopping someone who turned out to be the perpetrator? Then the EPD would be at fault. 

          2. Stopping

            Let me ask you this: When you say "stopping a kid" do you always mean "handcuffing a kid?" Because that's what we are talking about in this case. Well, that's probably what we should be talking about, anyway.

          3. Yes, I do mean “handcuffing”

            Yes, I do mean "handcuffing" a kid or anyone else who is suspect.  It's an officer safety issue. 

          4. Data


            Data is important, but again correlation does not imply causality. There are other variables other than race: family structure, schooling, neighborhood, culture,etc. Sen. Moynihan, a liberal Democrat,  was criticized when he objected to aspects of the Great Society legislation.  Time has shown him to be prescient.

  10. We need to ask ourselves

    We need to ask ourselves if we really expect the police to combat crime. By color coding who should be held accountable for dishonest acts, we all end up losing in the end.

    1. Over reaction?

      IF and that is a big IF until facts are known, the police reacted a little fast or strong, I'd ask residents to consider themselves.

      Anyone who has been part of an organization that has fiscal, health or similar responsibilities know how easy it is for other to want the board or even one person to do all the work.  After awhile that board or person realizes they are getting not help but all the work and has to take actions instead of sitting and hoping others will help.  Then the other people in the group think of the board/person as a dictator and complain.

      If people in the community will not turn in criminals or give evidence when they have it and public officials jump on them before the facts are known, the police are in the situation I described—they are left to solve the crimes.  

      There are complaints are profiling—maybe true, maybe not.  However IF one group is committing a large portion of the crimes, even out of proportion to their portion of the community, you would expect the proportion of the arrests, searches, convictions and jailing to follow the proportion of the crimes not the population.

  11. Race, Crime and politics in Evanston

    As I recall some years back the EPD was stopping more miniorities in Traffic stops, so it was pointed out by the community members the police were racial profiling. It appears in the last few years the police now are stopping more whites on a percentage basis.

    Good policing?   Maybe or Maybe not.

    In watching a few of the police traps to catch, citizens, in one case it caused an accident, in another cause it almost caused an accident, the stops were set up at 5:00 pm in North Evanston doing nothing but slowing traffic down and catching people for not using seat belts.

    Should we blame the police for the misuse of resources?  No the blame is on our political leaders like the Mayor, and some council members who response to citizens and came up with a recent "goal"  about traffic safety.The mess created was all these cross walks all over town, using city resources on nonsense when the water lines under Central street broke many times.

    Should we have all these police resources involved with so called traffic safety or should they be used to rid the community of the gang members and other criminals?

    What might come out of this newest issue on racial profiling, now will the police go around handcuffing white kids to raise the statistics?  or will we deal with real issues?

    Having lived here for almost 30 years and having leaders like our current Mayor, we will just have more community meetings, to talk about crime.

  12. Wife of an EPD officer weighs in

    I am the proud wife of an Evanston police officer and a 'not so proud' Evanston resident.

    Every morning my husband and all the fine, dedicated officers of the EPD go to work to protect us all. They put their lives on the line for each and every man, woman and child in this town.

    At a time like this, I am more often than not disappointed in the residents and especially in the elected officials of our city. They are so quick to blame the police, accuse an officer of misconduct, racism or other unfounded charges without all the facts.

    The job offices do is a thankless one.

    It appears our alderman are quick to apologize, rather than reach out and thank officers like Mark Buell for reacting quickly, by the book, detaining a suspect in a burglary.

    Mark, along with all the officers on the scene did their job, as directed. In my opinion, this boy's mother appears to be using her 'position and connections' to exploit the situation. Accessing personal communication on Facebook to try and find something to support her claims. Sounds like a desperate attempt to make her case.

    In doing so, she is dragging a fine officer, father, uncle and friend through the mud. Shame on you, Mrs. Greenwell and shame on our alderman who do not support and hank every officer in this town for the sacrfice they make each day.

    Should Officer Buell be left to defend himself in this ridiculous law suit, you can bet that I will begin a public fundraiser to assist Mark and his family! The police family and my friends will step up and do what's right for Mark.

    1. Aldermen were quick to apologize and refused to defend EPD

      Most Evanstonians fully support Officer Buell and would rally behind him in a heartbeat, including my wife and I.

      I hope Buell and the city fights this friviolous lawsuit and not settle for anything but a favorable judgement.

      Afterward, every aldermen should publicly express kind words for Buell and EPD and ridicule those like Greenwell, a Northwestern University journalism professor that is poisoning the well with racist vitriol.

      I thnk every aldermen rght now should express publicly kind and respectful words for everyone on the  Evanston police force.

      It was a total disgrace when aldermen publicly apologized to Greenwell before all the facts came out. It was also a disgrace of what was not said. Would it have been so hard for aldermen to back up the Evanston Police Department when Greenwell and her attorneys at a public meeting were ripping it to shreds?

      I will remember this and make it an issue in next April's election.

    2. I will contribute to your fundraiser

      I and a significant majority of Evanstonians fully appreciate and recognize the challenges our police force confronts in our community.

      All policemen deserve their due respect in serving Evanston.

      Unfortunately, the "vocal few" are the squeeky wheel which generates the attention, but do not represent the views of the overall community.

      Thank you officer Buell, and thank you to the rest of EPD for your fine work.

      If necessary, I will contribute money to defend officer Buell. 


      1. I agree

        I agree that it is a vocal minority  who do not appreciate the hard work of the EPD.  I sure know that I do.

  13. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill

    If this kid was taken in to the police station and put in a holding cell then yes that would be a cause for concern but the kid was let go in a timely matter I don't see the harm. Yes it kinda sucks that an innocent kid was handcuffed for a little while because he matched the description of the person the police were looking for but that's a small inconvenience to ensure that safety and well being of all Evanston citizens.

    If it were me I would much rather receive a phone call saying my son was handcuffed and quickly released then a phone call saying (god forbid) my son was shot by someone who could have previously been picked up by police yet they failed to because they were afraid to do their job.   

    So all I'm saying is Ava Thompson-Greenwell needs to weigh the costs vs. the benefits of what she's doing with this silly lawsuit.

    (And just an FYI before some people jump down my throat I'm am black and I live in the neighborhood of Evanston near ETHS)

  14. Looks like the Mayor and Wally want to end this issue fast!

    Wally has this item put on the special council meeting for Monday night it is schedule for 6:00 pm which is earlier than usually and they are only allowing 15 minutes of public comment.

    Are they trying to push this through fast, will there be a fair judgement?

    No doubt the Mayor will let her friends speak longer.

    Those of you who like to speak on here should come to council Monday night and voice your opinion, remember the council does listen to numbers. Have a little courage speak in public.

    Ofcourse if this meeting does not interest you, theres the Mayor silly meeting on crime Tuesday night.


  15. Crime every week

    Burglary, aggravated assault, theft, shots fired.  Every week in Evanston.  Now homicide. We need police not afraid to do their jobs. Fix the pension problem and get more police on the street, especially by the high school.

  16. Are you kidding me!

    I just want to make sure that I am understanding this correctly.  A 13-year-old male was detained and handcuffed as a person of interest.  During the investigation it was determined this subject was not the suspect.  He was then uncuffed and released.   He was not beaten, tortured, or detained in jail.   What happened to him was an inconvenience!  

    Let me explain why I am biased about this. The safety of the community and the officer should outweigh the inconvenience of this 13 year old boy. I used to be a police officer in the City of Evanston. I was injured by a suspect who was not handcuffed.

    Ms. Greenwell I welcome you to look in my eyes and explain to me why your son being inconvenienced is more important than the safety of the community and the police officer doing his job. While you explain it to me please feel free to look at the scars on my shoulder from the three shoulder surgeries I've had to try to fix my shoulder.

    Then keep in mind I need a full shoulder replacement, a nerve transfer (for the nerve damage in my arm), a knee replacement, surgery on my neck and back and lets not forget the hip replacement I will eventually need. Keep in mind that is just the physical damage. I will be more than happy to explain to you about the depression, PTSD, nightmares and panic attacks that I have. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish that suspect was handcuffed. He destroyed my life and I will live in pain everyday for the rest of my life.

    Shame on everyone jumping at the chance to criticize this officer for doing his job. You sit behind you computer nice and safe. You don't know what its like to put your life on the line everyday for people that don't appreciate or like you — people who are just waiting to sue the city to make a quick buck. We should be thanking police officers for putting their lives on the line and for keeping our community safe.

    Handcuffs can always be taken off, but  you can't undo injuries… trust me I know.

    1. You make a valid point

      The Mayor and Wally are rushing to judgement here, since this is very bad PR for the city, the Mayor never wants to follow the process, she shows this time and time again in her actions.

       There is a process here which needs to be followed in Review of this case and not a rush to judgement.

      My view with the information in the press, is in the end of the review, the officer, did nothing wrong by handicuffing the youth, it may not have been sensitive, it was his judgement, which he is allowed to use.  Could the police review their over all policy to handicuffing yes, but as you point out, police officers do get hurt if they are not in control of the suspects.

      The other issue which is troubling city property appears to have been misused, with the rag doll hanging from a police car.  This is a problem, but what is the punishment?  A letter in a file, or firing the officer? 

      Recently Wally admitted over 20 city employees have stolen medical benefits from the city, and now the city is saving $200,000. Where any of these employees fired for this theft?  It is more troubling these employees are still on staff handling city funds.  Yet the Mayor and council seem unconcerned. I have alot bigger of problem with thieves working for the city than a police officer who used poor judgement to hang a ragdoll from a police car.

      Also one of Wally's direct staff members  ( director ) was misusing city property, which I pointed out, the city quickly cover it up.

      If this is poorly handled we no doubt will end up sued by the police officer as well and end up paying thousand of dollars more, with our crack legal department and a few council members who gave up their law licenses, I suspect we are in for more trouble.

  17. Nightmare in Evanston

    Hmmm!!! I wonder if the 13 year old would have been a white child if the dialog would be different? If there would be a demand for heads to roll (shouting from the masses). No (13 year old) child deserves to be handcuffed like an adult criminal, period. And the insensitivity demonstrated by the police officer hanging that stuffed toy from his patrol car shows and justifies that legal action is necessary. Maybe after the City, Police Dept., and the police officer lose the lawsuit, police will stop harrassing men and boys of color in the City of Evanston – and other parents (and young, innocent boys) will not have to experience the nightmare this family experienced.

  18. Been there, done that

    Someone mentioned the "inconvenience" of a child being handcuffed….Well, as the mother of a tween, I can tell you that he would be more than "inconvenienced" by being handcuffed. For a child who is not familiar to crime such an incident would be very traumatic. Don't claim otherwise unless it has actually happened to you.You really don't know.


    1. Why do you assume

      Why do you assume it hasn't? 

      It is unfortunate that we live in a world where some children are violent and commit crimes.   It's unfortunate that those that commit  crimes don't wear signs telling the Police that they are the criminals.   I wish the Police had a magic wand that could identify the innocent from the guilty.   I wish that all suspects were eagar to cooperate with the Police.  Unfortunatley, this is not reality.   Reality is that the police have to make split second decisions, they have to keep the safety of the community a priority.  Sometimes that requires we handcuff someone.   The good news is the handcuffs come with keys so we can take the cuffs off if need be.  

      I do believe it was an incovenience, I stand by what I said.   Until you have done the job of a Police Officer…"You really don't know."


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