A screen capture of Monday's press conference with Astarte Washington's family and attorney

After a Chicago Police Department (CPD) SUV rolled over 15-year-old Astarte Washington during the anti-police uprisings in Roseland on May 31, she laid on the pavement fearing for her life. She could hear the loud screams of protestors, as police officers ordered the crowd to move to the sidewalk. She heard the police and ambulance sirens, but she couldn’t move. 

A short few minutes before, police officers had ordered the large crowd of protestors to get on the ground — Astarte complied as her older brother and others in the crowd ran away. 

She did what she was told, according to her mother Tawana Washington, but that wasn’t enough to keep her safe.

“Growing up my daughter would even debate family and friends about why police were important and good people in the neighborhoods,” Washington said about her daughter’s admiration for the police. “My kids grew up liking and trusting the police.”

Now, Washington said, her daughter doesn’t “want nothing to do with them,” adding that Astarte’s trust in the police has diminished — along with her interest to leave the house lately. 

Sitting next to Astarte’s grandmother, Bonita Washington, and family attorney, Robert Fakhouri, Washington fought back tears as she spoke about her daughter at a June 29 press conference at Fakhouri’s office, The Fakhouri Firm, LLC. The family filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago on Friday, seeking at least $50,000 in damages, for “willful and wanton” conduct and “disregard for the safety of others.”

Astarte is currently receiving medical treatment, and seeing an orthopedic surgeon, for fractured bones in her leg and pelvis. She didn’t attend the press conference because she didn’t want people to see her injuries, according to her mother. 

“I tried to get her to come, but she just said she didn’t want to come,” Washington said. “She didn’t want to be in the camera. She didn’t want people to see her like that.”

On Memorial Day weekend, Chicago joined Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities across the country in days of civil unrest and protest following the police killings of George Floyd on May 25, Breonna Taylor on March 13 and countless others who have died at the hands of police and vigilantes. 

On the evening of May 30, Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a city curfew at 9:00 p.m. following what she described as “criminal activity” during the day’s protests. On June 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called in 250 additional National Guardsmen and state police to assist law enforcement departments across the state. 

On May 31 in Roseland on Chicago’s far South Side, protestors took the streets, along with individuals who engaged in looting neighborhood stores, seeking justice for Black lives murdered by police. However, Astarte wasn’t engaging in the protest on 111th and South Michigan Avenue that day, according to attorney Fakhouri. She and her older brother, Kevin Johnson, were heading to their home in the West Pullman neighborhood after leaving their grandmother’s house in the 9700 block of South Yale Avenue.

Because of the protests, Fakhouri said, the #34 Michigan bus route was out of service, which forced Astarte and her brother to walk home. That’s when they came across the large protest crowd on 111th and Michigan.

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At Monday’s press conference, Astarte’s grandmother said her grandson — Astarte’s brother — took off running when police ordered them to the ground. He feared being hurt by the police.

Once Astarte’s brother realized she’d been rolled over by the CPD SUV, he called their family in a panic. 

“They won’t let me get to her and I’m telling them and telling them that this is my baby sister,” her brother said over the phone to his mother, according to grandmother Bonita Washington.

“I know that crushed him,” the grandmother added. “Not being able to protect his own sister like we taught him to do hurt his heart.”

Astarte, known by friends and family as “Star,” recently graduated from 8th grade at DuBois Elementary, where she was student council president and captain of the basketball team. Her mother said she made good grades and is a natural leader. 

However, after the CPD incident, Astarte’s mother and grandmother said it’s been a challenge for her to be strong. 

“My baby stays in the house now. She doesn’t want to have conversations. My baby can’t even sleep at night,” her mother said. “I gotta push her to come outside. She just sits there in her room. I’m scared for my daughter.”

Astarte was awarded “Most Athletic Female” by her 8th grade class, and had dreams of playing in the WNBA. 

Astarte plans to attend Carver Military School in Chicago this fall. Now, her family isn’t sure if she’ll be able to play basketball again, but they’re praying that she will be able to. 

Fakhouri said that Astarte’s experience with CPD officers that day has “shattered her dreams” and being from the South Side of Chicago should not be a determining factor in how her life is valued by police officers.  

“Simply by being a resident of Roseland shouldn’t cost her future dreams to be an All-Star WNBA player, to be a coach of a basketball team or even a therapist,” Fakhouri said. “Those are her dreams. Being a resident of Roseland shouldn’t change those dreams. Interacting with the police that is there to protect you shouldn’t alter those future wishes. But in this case it did. And that’s what needs to change.”

Vee L. Harrison is a staff writer for The TRiiBE: vee@thetriibe.com

This story has been updated to reflect the name of the school Astarte Washington plans to attend in the fall.