Family of assistant principal fatally shot in the Loop file wrongful death lawsuit

The family of an assistant principal who was shot and killed inside a residential building in the Loop filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the alleged gunman, building management and its security, saying they “violated policies and common sense.” 

Abnerd Joseph, 32, was fatally shot on Sept. 14 around 7:30 p.m. in a hallway on the 48th floor of a building at 60 E. Monroe St., which police listed as his address. Joseph worked as an assistant principal at the Intrinsic Schools’ downtown campus, where one co-worker said he inspired Black and brown students. 

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that a security guard and two tenants “(took) matters into their own hands” by following and confronting Joseph instead of waiting for police officers to arrive at the building, needlessly leading to his death. It said they were not trained to handle the “mental health crisis” that Joseph was experiencing.

“Abnerd Joseph simply did not need to die,” said the family’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci, at a Wednesday news conference. “If the building security had done the right thing, the logical thing, on that day, what we all believe their training directs them to do when they learned that Abnerd was upset and needed assistance … they should have called and waited for help to arrive.”

Before the shooting, Joseph was knocking on residents’ doors “causing a disturbance,” according to a police report obtained by the Tribune. The report said Joseph punched a security guard and a resident who approached him because of his “erratic behavior.” 

Another resident of the building, who had a concealed carry license, fatally shot Joseph in the chest, forearm, abdomen and lower back with a semiautomatic pistol, the report said. Police arrested the man, but released him soon after without charges. 

A police spokesperson said Wednesday that there are no updates to this case and that the investigation was “active and ongoing.” 

Romanucci said Joseph had recently been prescribed a new medication to treat his ADHD, which might have given him anxiety. The lawsuit claimed Joseph was in “emotional distress,” saying he told fellow tenants he “feared for his life.” He didn’t pose a risk, the lawsuit alleged, saying he wasn’t armed and only wore boxers and a bathrobe.  

“There’s a reason that vigilante justice is illegal,” Romanucci said. “The building security company to allow an armed resident to address another resident in emotional distress is absolutely stunning, and the consequences were tragic.”

Joseph’s family on Wednesday said that they are still grieving his loss. They said he was a cherished family member as well as a “pillar in the community.” They also called on Chicago police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to finish their investigation and press criminal charges against the alleged gunman. 

“From time to time, I can still hear his voice in my head,” said Bryan Bienaime, Joseph’s brother. “I’m a cook, and some days I can’t even perform my job because he’s constantly on my mind.” 

Bienaime described Joseph as “the glue that kept us all together,” saying he radiated positivity and would give the clothes off his back if someone needed it.  

“My mother was blessed to have seven children. In that moment when the shooter pulled the trigger, he might as well have aimed at each of us, because each of those shots wounded us, too,” said Joseph’s sister, Jeanna Joseph Kelly. “A piece of us all died that day with my brother.” 

“My brother was not only a cherished member of our family but also a beloved friend to many,” she continued. “He was a person that touched many with his smile, his laughter, humor, intelligence and unwavering support. He truly changed the lives of so many people who knew him.” 

The lawsuit named as defendants building ownership, management and security, including Mesa Development, Avison Young-Chicago, Sudler Property Management and Allied Universal Security Services. The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It also named the alleged gunman who could not be reached for comment. 

Joseph’s family is seeking more than $50,000 and court costs for negligence and wrongful death. 

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