Lawsuit claims false arrest of man photographing fire standpipes
Loop North News


(Above) Fire standpipes beneath Wacker Drive in the northeast corner of the Loop, photographed by David Sudler in 2016. The wire coat hanger, he believes, had been used to scrape debris out of the pipe. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

A 15-year resident of the New Eastside neighborhood – who is a Chicago Fire Department volunteer – says he was falsely arrested while documenting deteriorated fire standpipes – pipes into which water is pumped in case of fire.

3-Apr-18 – A volunteer for Chicago Fire Department says he was falsely arrested while documenting deteriorated fire standpipes in the Loop.

David Sudler has filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against Hyatt Hotels Corporation, The Habitat Company, and United Security Services – three companies based in Chicago – along with two police officers, a police lieutenant, a retired deputy police chief, and the property manager of his apartment building.

On March 12, 2016, Sudler says he was standing on public property below Wacker Drive, inspecting and photographing fire standpipe fittings – to which firefighters attach hoses – outside Columbus Plaza, where he lives, and adjoining property belonging to Hyatt Regency Chicago.

“I’m looking in there with a flashlight and taking pictures of the pipes,” recalled Sudler. When two police officers approached and asked what he was doing, Sudler explained he was a volunteer with Chicago Fire Department and had been asked to photograph standpipes in bad condition by John McNicholas, who was still a deputy commissioner for CFD at the time.

Photo by Steven Dahlman (Left) David Sudler (center) speaks with 19th Ward Alderman Matthew O’Shea (right) at a dedication on November 22, 2016, of a memorial at Chicago Fire Department Engine 13 on North Columbus Drive. Sudler helped design the memorial. At left is Sudler’s wife, Sandra Marsh.

Sudler says McNicholas was particularly interested in standpipes that had coat hangers stuffed into them. Sudler believes coat hangers were being used by an employee of a nearby building to scrape debris out the standpipes.

“You go down and take those pictures,” Sudler says McNicholas told him, “we want you to keep doing what you’re doing.”

The area that day had more than the usual police presence due to St. Patrick’s Day celebrations downtown.

“I didn’t care about there being 30 or 40 cops around because I’m doing a legitimate thing,” said Sudler.

He says the officers, Javier Alonso and Lawrence Kerr, asked him for a work order. He says one of the officers also asked him, mockingly, “When did you get out of the hospital?”

(Right) As seen from across the Chicago River, Columbus Plaza (left) and Hyatt Regency Chicago (right). Image obtained from Hyatt Regency Chicago. Hyatt Regency Chicago

No Contact order leads to arrest

Officers Alonso and Kerr checked a database and saw that a stalking/no contact order had been entered against Sudler at the request of Melanie Tomberlin, property manager at Columbus Plaza, who is involved in a dispute with Sudler over, according to Sudler, complaints she believes Sudler has made to Chicago Fire Department about safety conditions at Columbus Plaza.

The order, according to Sudler, barred him from entering the management office of Columbus Plaza but he says Tomberlin told police the order meant he could not enter the building, despite living there.

Michael Patton, a former deputy police chief who is now director of security for United Security Services and in charge of security for Hyatt Regency Chicago, approached the officers and told them the fire standpipes Sudler was photographing belonged to Hyatt. He signed a complaint against Sudler on behalf of the hotel and Sudler was arrested.

He was charged with criminal mischief, but the case was dismissed when neither arresting officer, or any of Hyatt’s security personnel, showed up at his hearing.

Sudler says the charges were “maliciously instituted against him.” He claims false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. His lawsuit, filed on March 12, seeks compensation, punitive damages, and attorney fees.

Photo by David Sudler (Left) Freshly repaired standpipes below Lower Wacker Drive, photographed in 2016 by David Sudler, compared with a broken and dirty standpipe.

About a month after Sudler’s arrest, McNicholas resigned from Chicago Fire Department after he was involved in a traffic accident allegedly while intoxicated.

Also named in the lawsuit is Janice Roche, a police lieutenant who, according to the suit, was supervising officers Alonso and Kerr at the time of the incident.

A spokesperson for Chicago Fire Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Sudler is a union boilermaker by trade. He has been a Senior Vice President of a pharmaceutical company and a yacht builder. His grandfather was Louis C. Sudler, opera singer, chairman emeritus of the parent body of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and founder, along with David’s great-uncle, of Sudler & Co., one of Chicago’s largest real estate firms.

 Previous story: Loop’s rotting ground floor

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News |

Published 3-Apr-18 3:05 AM

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