There was nothing simple about the life or death of Logan Smith. This Hoffman Estates youth was left untreated by police and healthcare professionals perplexed at his unique medical condition, and as a result Logan's family members lost a cherished part of their lives.
Last week, Logan Smith's family won a $4.95 million settlement from the Village of Hoffman Estates ( which will pay the bulk of the fees, $4 million ) , members of the village's police force, Columbia Hoffman Estates Medical Center, and others. In settling, the village is admitting to no wrongdoing.
The case also highlighted potential racial profiling in the Northwest Suburb of Chicago.
Logan Smith's life and brutal 1996 death were chronicled indepth in the February 1997 Outlines.
Born a genetic male with under-developed genitalia, Logan was raised as a female. But at age 15 and after surgical alterations, Logan decided he wanted to be treated as a man. His medical condition was such that Hoffman Estates Village Attorney Richard Williams initially, and erroneously, reported that "Smith died not from trauma, but from complications arising from a sex-change operation."
Young and Black, Logan lived with his mother, Bettijean, and brother Brian within an encircling suburban community older and whiter. Hoffman Estates, located 29 miles northwest of Chicago's Loop and just off the Northwest Tollway, is one of the more prosperous area suburbs. The village's Black population is less than four percent, with a lengthy history of documented discrimination. One of two Black officers in the 90-member village police force testified that she often heard racial slurs and jokes among her fellow officers. And perhaps this racial bias translated into the traffic stop in January 1996 which resulted in Smith's death.
Logan and his brother Brian were stopped by police around 7 a.m. on Jan. 22, 1996. Officer Gregory Polous, according to the lawsuit, approached their vehicle, which was parked in front of their own home, and alleged that the driver, Brian, committed two offenses: failure to signal a right turn while turning from a secluded residential street into a dead end, and failure to display a license plate, in lieu of a temporary license plate clearly displayed in compliance with Illinois law.
With Logan, age 24, already in the townhome, officer Polous reportedly maced Brian as he removed groceries from the back seat. Logan returned to assist his now-blinded brother, taking him inside to wash his eyes with water. The complaint states that Polous, still having yet to issue any traffic citations, followed the two into the Smith residence without justification or permission, and without having obtained a search warrant. Logan, reminding Polous of the unconstitutionality of this act, was placed under arrest for interfering with an officer's exercise of duties.
Two more officers also then entered the home, without a warrant. The lawsuit alleged that the officers seized Logan with "great and unreasonable force," kicking him in his abdomen and spraying him with pepper gas. Bettijean said her son did not understand the charges, and had offered no resistance.
Immediately, Logan began to complain about severe pain he was experiencing in his abdomen, repeatedly requesting medical assistance. Finally transported by ambulance to the Hoffman Estates Medical Center, Logan was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and released without the peculiarities of Logan's medical status, or the circumstances of his arrest, being communicated to the presiding medical technicians.
As attorney Monica McFadden, who would eventually be victorious for the Smith family, told Outlines in 1997, emergency room professionals chose to ignore that Smith was a lifelong sufferer of a congenital anatomical anomaly: Born with an external bladder and vestigial genitalia, subjected throughout his childhood and young adult life to a series of corrective surgical procedures, Logan had what professionals call a "cecal reservoir," an alternative bladder made from a lower portion of his intestinal tract. The lawsuit alleged that the conflagration with police ruptured this receptacle, spilling urine directly into Logan's abdominal cavity, precipitating the septic infection that culminated in his death.
Around 10 a.m., despite more complaints of pain from Logan, he was taken for processing and incarceration to the Hoffman Estates Police Station lockup. Logan remained in his cell despite obvious physical deterioration. Bettijean arrived at 1 p.m. to post bond, and when she saw her son she insisted on having an ambulance pick him up. Back at the hospital, Logan repeatedly informed the medical staff that he was kicked in the abdomen by his arresting officers. Logan remained in critical condition until his death around 11 p.m.
McFadden said police early on pushed the rumor that Logan's death was a result of complications from a sex-change operation. Perhaps the village thought less sympathy would be generated for a transgendered person, playing to homophobic fears of the community.
Born a genetic male though with under-developed and subsequently surgically altered genitalia, Logan was compelled to urinate using a catheter. Prompted by his admittedly unique anatomy and the need for privacy, doctors and psychologists suggested that the Smiths raise him as a girl. As Logan matured and medical technologies advanced, plastic surgeons were gradually able to reconstruct his genitalia, hoping to eventually make them not only aesthetically realistic, but functional. At age 15, Logan chose to look, act and be treated as a man.
While village officials said they found no wrongdoing, they did settle. The $4.95 million, announced June 27, ends the case against the Village of Hoffman Estates, members of the police, Columbia Hoffman Estates Medical Center, and others.
"There are two tragic lessons in this story," attorney McFadden said. "The first is that Logan's death was avoidable. Had he received proper medical attention, he could have survived his injuries. The second lesson had broader reach. In the course of our extensive investigation in this case, we discovered that the police department in Hoffman Estates was apparently engaging in practices that have since come to be known as 'racial profiling.' Targeting minorities is, unfortunately, standard practice in many communities. This case should serve as a reminder to municipalities everywhere that there are consequences for violating the civil liberties of residents. Resisting an unfair arrest should not be a death sentence. In Logan's case, it was."
The lawsuit alleged, among other things, that the Hoffman Estates police violated standard police procedures and constitutional law. It further alleged that the police rewrote the original incident report upon learning of Smith's death. The complaint also alleged police brutality. The Columbia Hoffman Estates Medical Center and Dr. Pardeep Bhanot faced charges of medical negligence and wrongful death for releasing Smith when he was sick. According to the complaint, the victim's extensive medical history was known both to medical personnel at the hospital and to the police.
Mike Spitz contributed to the 1997 Outlines report about this case.