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Coal City firefighter sues deputy who arrested him on looting suspicion

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

A Coal City firefighter arrested on suspicion of looting following the tornadoes that struck Illinois on Nov. 17 has filed a lawsuit against the Will County sheriff’s deputy who arrested him.

Although officials at one point Nov. 18 said Michael Barrow had been arrested on a looting charge, Will County state’s attorney’s officials later said charges had not been filed against him, and Will and Grundy county court records indicate no charges were brought against Barrow in court.

On Friday, Barrow and his wife sued the deputy who arrested him, as well as a spokeswoman for the Will County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff’s office and Will County, in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Barrow claims false arrest, unreasonable seizure, malicious prosecution and defamation, and is asking for damages of at least $1.75 million and reimbursement for costs.

When reached at home Saturday, the deputy declined comment. A message left Tuesday with the Will County Sheriff’s Office by the Morris Daily Herald was not returned.

After Barrow’s arrest, officials said he was suspected of looting the Stop ‘N Smoke Tobacco Shop, 3010 W. Illinois Route 113, in Diamond.

The lawsuit says after the tornadoes passed through the area, Barrow and his wife went to her mother’s house in Diamond to check on her mother. After they found the residents of the house were safe, but the “house and property devastated,” Barrow and his wife, at the request of her grandmother, began searching what was left of the house and barn for keepsakes, according to the lawsuit.

While they were searching, the deputy went up to them near the barn and put Barrow in handcuffs on suspicion of trespassing and looting, according to the lawsuit. Barrow’s wife and other family members explained what they were doing, but the deputy still arrested Barrow, according to the lawsuit.

The deputy then wrote an arrest report indicating he had found Barrow at “a commercial establishment several acres away,” and told the spokeswoman what he had put in the report, according to the lawsuit.

Various news outlets, including the Morris Daily Herald, picked up the story on Nov. 18, but charges were dropped against Barrow that same day, according to the lawsuit.

“I was wrongfully arrested and I was a respected member of this community with a clean record and never did anything wrong,” Barrow said last week in an interview with the Morris Daily Herald. “And now my good name is ruined.”

• Morris Daily Herald contributed to this report

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