A Coal City firefighter arrested on suspicion of looting following the tornadoes that struck Illinois last Sunday has filed a lawsuit against the Will County sheriff's deputy who arrested him.
Although officials at one point Monday said Michael Barrow had been arrested on a looting charge, Will County state's attorney's officials later said charges had not been filed against him and Will and Grundy county court records indicate no charges were brought against Barrow in court.
Barrow and his wife on Friday sued the deputy who arrested him, as well as a spokeswoman for the Will County Sheriff's Office, the sheriff's office and Will County, in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Barrow claims false arrest, unreasonable seizure, malicious prosecution and defamation, and is asking for damages of at least $1.75 million and reimbursement for costs.
When reached at home Saturday, the deputy declined comment.
After Barrow's arrest, officials said he was suspected of looting the Stop 'N Smoke Tobacco Shop, 3010 W. Illinois Route 113, in Diamond.
The lawsuit says that after the tornadoes passed through the area, Barrow and his wife went to her mother's house in Diamond to check on her mother. After they found the residents of the house were safe, but the "house and property devastated," Barrow and his wife, at the request of her grandmother, began searching what was left of the house and barn for keepsakes, according to the lawsuit.
While they were searching, the deputy went up to them near the barn and put Barrow in handcuffs on suspicion of trespassing and looting, according to the lawsuit. Barrow's wife and other family members explained what they were doing, but the deputy still arrested Barrow, according to the lawsuit.
The deputy then wrote an arrest report indicating he had found Barrow at "a commercial establishment several acres away," and told the spokeswoman what he had put in the report, according to the lawsuit. In an e-mail advising reporters about the lawsuit, Scott Kamin, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, said the store was a half-mile away.
Various news outlets, including the Tribune, picked up the story on Monday but charges were dropped against Barrow on Monday, according to the lawsuit.
An email to a Will County Sheriff's spokesman was not immediately responded to Saturday afternoon.