Attorneys for a bartender allegedly beaten when she refused to serve an off-duty police officer more alcohol _ an incident caught on video and viewed around the world _ filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the officer and the city of Chicago.
Security cameras captured video of a large man punching and kicking the petite Karolina Obrycka in a Feb. 19 attack that made international headlines.
Obrycka, 24, said Monday she still fears retribution from police. She said she even changed her hair color from blonde to light red to avoid being recognized.
Her alleged attacker, 38-year-old Anthony Abbate, faces aggravated battery, intimidation, official misconduct and other felony charges. An indictment filed last week alleges Abbate, through an intermediary, tried to intimidate witnesses by threatening to plant drugs on bar employees and arrest customers for drunken driving.
Obrycka's civil rights lawsuit claims that damages to the bartender, the bar's owner and a manager amount to at least $1 million (euro740,000), and it accuses Chicago police of systematically covering up misbehavior by its officers for years.
"Essentially we are alleging that because of the policies and procedures and customs that have been in effect in the Chicago Police Department for many years, officers such as Abbate feel that they are above the law," said Obrycka's lawyer, Terry Ekl.
City officials did not immediately return a message Monday afternoon seeking comment.
Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline has said Abbate had "tarnished our image worse than anybody else in the history of the department," and vowed to speed up the process of getting officers accused of misconduct off the street. Soon after the incident, Cline announced he was retiring.