Morris police, city sued by family of woman in fatal shooting

Schwab was fatally shot Sept. 29 during 911 response

The Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse is pictured in Chicago Monday as a federal trial of the former Commonwealth Edison lobbyists and one ex-executive continues. (Capitol News Illinois photos by Hannah Meisel)

The family of Alivia Schwab is suing Morris police officers Nicholas Pampinella and Casie Price and the city of Morris after police fatally shot Schwab on Sept. 29, while responding to a 911 call made by Schwab’s therapist.

The lawsuit, brought through the Law Offices of Jeffrey J. Neslund in Chicago, seeks compensatory damages; punitive damages against Pampinella, Price and the city of Morris; and attorneys’ fees.

The Schwab family seeks recourse on four counts: a violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, a civil action for deprivation of rights, wrongful death, a survival claim and indemnification.

The lawsuit acknowledges Schwab’s history of mental illness in outlining the events of Sept. 29 and those that led to the incident.

Schwab was released from the Bourbonnais Terrace Mental Health Facility on Sept. 20.

Officers received a 911 call from a counselor working with Schwab, who said Schwab was suicidal and threatening to harm herself with a knife. The Morris Police Department sent officers Pampineela and Price to Schwab’s home in the apartments on Anne Lane with the knowledge that she was threatening self-harm.

Body camera footage obtained by The Morris Herald-News in a Freedom of Information Act request shows that Pampinella and Price approached Schwab, who stood on the front steps of her apartment building holding a knife in her left hand and a phone to her ear in her right.

Schwab was on the phone with her therapist.

The body camera footage shows Pampinella telling Price to prepare her taser weapon upon their approach, and Schwab continues approaching the officers. Schwab moves slowly at first but speeds up toward Pampinella after he yells to Price to use her taser.

The video shows that while Price searches for her taser and pulls it out, Schwab runs forward, and Pampinella fires his gun four times, hitting Schwab three times.

Price was in the process of aiming her taser when Pampinella shot Schwab.

The body camera footage shows officers then handcuffed Schwab, and Pampinella met with another officer, who sent him to his car.

Schwab was told to stop moving several times by both Price and Pampinella, and she did not heed their requests, instead moving forward with her knife held facing down, as seen on the footage.

Morris Police Chief Alicia Steffes, in a statement attached to the body camera footage, referred to this as a stabbing grip.

Also obtained in the FOIA request was audio from the 911 call.

The caller requested an ambulance, noting that Schwab was threatening to cut herself with the knife. The caller also told the 911 operator that Schwab recently transitioned back into the community from a mental health facility.

It was believed at the time the call was made that Schwab already had cut herself.

The person on the phone with Schwab can be heard in the background of the 911 call to the dispatcher repeating Schwab’s name and asking whether she’s still there.

“I do have four officers there with her now,” the dispatcher said. “That may be why she’s not answering.”

Grundy County State’s Attorney Russ Baker released a report Nov. 10 that found Pampinella was justified in his use of force leading to Schwab’s death.

“Alivia L. Schwab was in a psychotic, suicidal state of mind while armed with a 9-inch chef’s knife and aggressively attacked police, ignoring all commands to stop and drop the weapon,” according to Baker’s report. “Furthermore, Officer Pampinella’s actions of responding to a 911 call of a suicidal woman armed with a knife, as well as his use of deadly force regarding firing his weapon in the direction of Alivia L. Schwab, were legally justifiable given the totality of the circumstances.”

Schwab’s family declined to comment. The Morris Police Department and Grundy County State’s Attorney did not return phone calls requesting comments.

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec

Michael Urbanec covers Grundy County and the City of Morris, Coal City, Minooka, and more for the Morris Herald-News