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Romanucci & Blandin files civil lawsuit for wrongful death of Abnerd Joseph

May 15, 2024



Unarmed high school assistant principal was shot in his condo building during an emotional crisis - building security and an armed vigilante resident decided to handle it themselves, with fatal consequences 

CHICAGO (May 15, 2024) – Building security at The Legacy at Millennium Park at 60 E. Monroe Street in Chicago freely allowed an armed resident to patrol the hallways of the luxury condo highrise and behave as a vigilante on the night of September 14, 2023. The resident sought and located Abnerd Joseph, another condominium resident who was in a state of emotional distress while unarmed and wearing only boxer shorts and a bathrobe. Instead of waiting for law enforcement to arrive and utilize their training in de-escalation and crisis intervention, the vigilante resident delivered seven fatal shots, killing Abnerd. Abnerd’s death at 32 years old was senseless and preventable, and the security company responsible for responding to emergencies in the building failed in its duty to protect residents and involve authorities when needed. 

Romanucci & Blandin, LLC today announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against multiple entities who owned and managed the building and its security, as well as the gunman. The complaint is for wrongful death and negligent decisions that violated policies and common sense, which led to the prevention of the appropriate help and care Abnerd deserved. 

Abnerd was an enthusiastic high school assistant principal known for his tireless energy and commitment to mentoring students around the country, including where he worked at Intrinsic High School in Chicago. Family members say Abnerd had ADHD and had recently received a new prescription medicine that could have given him anxiety. Before he was shot and killed, witnesses say Abnerd was in a state of emotional distress in the hallway of his building. He was seen knocking on doors asking for help, saying he was concerned for his safety. During that time building security was made aware of Abnerd’s distress, and instead of allowing law enforcement to help Abnerd, the building security agent accompanied the defendant gunman to locate Abnerd and “handle” the situation, which ended tragically. 

Further, Abnerd’s family is emphatically urging the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to complete their investigation and file charges in this matter.  A police report says the gunman originally stated he fired shots in self-defense, despite the fact Abnerd was unarmed and witnesses state that the gunman proactively sought out a confrontation with Abnerd on the 48th floor, even though both men each lived on the 29th floor. 

The lawsuit was filed on May 14, 2024, in the Circuit Court of Cook County Department, Law Division. Romanucci & Blandin Founding Partner Antonio M. Romanucci and Senior Attorney Jason J. Friedl represent the plaintiff.  

The plaintiff is Delbert J. Charles as Independent Administrator of the Estate of Abnerd Joseph. The defendants are Mesa Development, LLC, Avison Young – Chicago, LLC, Sudler and Company d/b/a Sudler Property Management; Universal Protection Service, LLC d/b/a Allied Universal Security Services; and Garrett Mark Smith. 

Counts in the Complaint include Negligence – Survival Action, Negligence – Wrongful Death Battery – Survival Action, Battery – Wrongful Death Action, Negligence/Premises Liability – Survival Action, Negligence/Premises Liability – Wrongful Death Action. 

The complaint demands a jury trial and asks that the jury determine a dollar amount for compensatory damages, punitive damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest as allowable by law and as ordered by the Court, attorney fees, reasonable costs and such other relief that the Court deems just and equitable.  

“There is a reason vigilante justice is illegal, and this case demonstrates exactly why. The shocking decision by the building security company to allow an armed resident to address another resident in emotional distress is stunning, and the consequences were tragic. Abnerd needed help that evening and was asking for it as best he could, and what he got in return was aggression, gunfire and death,” said Romanucci & Blandin Founding Partner Antonio M. Romanucci.   

“Witnesses to this tragedy describe Abnerd’s demeanor when he was in distress, and they say he talked about having found the secret to helping children and that he was in fear for his life.  His family remains deep in grief and is seeking full accountability in all its forms for the devastating negligence that resulted in his death,” said Romanucci & Blandin Senior Attorney Jason J. Friedl. 

“Eight months ago, my brother was tragically taken from us in a senseless act of violence inside his condo building. Abnerd, unarmed, was shot seven times wearing nothing but his boxer shorts, bathrobe and socks. Abnerd was not just my brother; he was a pillar in our community, dedicated to shaping the lives of young scholars with whom he worked tirelessly. He built an upstanding reputation through a lifetime of integrity and commitment. We are tired. Our community is tired. But let it be known that we stand firm and unwavering in our pursuit of justice. We will not stop, we will not falter until those responsible for Abnerd's death are held accountable,” said Jay Charles, brother of Abnerd Joseph. 

My mother was blessed to have seven children. In the moment the shooter pulled the trigger, he might as well have aimed at each of us, because each of those shots wounded us, too. 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. He was a person who touched many with his smile, laughter, humor, intelligence, and unwavering support. He truly changed the lives of so many people who knew him,” said Jeanna Joseph Kelley, sister of Abnerd Joseph. 

About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC 

Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death through impact litigation. For more than 25 years, we have secured more than $1 billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars or record-setting awards. Our experience ranges from mass shootings, civil rights and police misconduct to medical malpractice, sexual abuse, motor vehicle accidents or workplace injury cases involving individual or institutional negligence. Romanucci & Blandin is a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors distinguish our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation, and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We differ from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured. Our clients’ experiences often inspire us to commit resources to transforming lives and communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit: 

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