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Local News

Parents sue Crest Hill police officer for daughter's death

Lawsuit claims officer killed woman, police maintained ‘code of silence’

The parents of a Channahon woman who died of a gunshot wound in February are suing the Crest Hill police officer she had been dating, the city of Crest Hill and the village of Channahon.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday, claims Felipe “Phil” Flores shot and killed Samantha Harer, 24; called 911; and claimed that she shot herself.

Harer was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in her Channahon apartment Feb. 13. The investigation is ongoing, and investigators have not made an official determination as to whether Harer’s death was a homicide or a suicide.

The only other person in the apartment with Harer was Flores, a Crest Hill police officer. Since the day of Harer’s death, according to Flores’ personnel file from the Crest Hill Police Department, he has been on administrative leave.

The lawsuit states that Harer and Flores began dating in 2017, although she did not know that Flores “had a long history of drinking problems.” According to Flores’ personnel file, he was suspended last year for 30 days because he was seen publicly intoxicated. He also drove drunk in March 2016.

It goes on to mention that Flores broke into a Joliet woman’s apartment and sexually assaulted her “using his service weapon to facilitate his rape of” her. But this statement contradicts the woman’s statements about the alleged incident. Flores never was prosecuted for the alleged assault.

In the lawsuit, the Harers claim that Flores and Harer had a “rocky relationship, made even more so by the fact that Defendant Flores’ alcoholism had not subsided, a fact of which Defendant Crest Hill was aware.”

The lawsuit goes on to say Flores and other police officers from Crest Hill and Channahon “disturbed and attempted to destroy the crime scene.” It added that while the Will County Coroner’s Office “disclosed evidence” after concluding Harer’s autopsy that pointed to her death not being a suicide, the defendants refused to release documents “that would show beyond doubt that Defendant Flores committed the shooting.”

The lawsuit also asks for compensatory damages of $15 million and punitive damages of no less than $150,000 against Flores.

Harer’s parents have yet to receive an official death certificate.

“I think this has gone beyond ridiculous,” Heather Harer, Samantha’s mother, said about the length of the investigation.

Samantha was working as a Western Will County Communications Center dispatcher before she died.

Channahon Deputy Police Chief Adam Bogart said investigators still are waiting for the forensic analysis of evidence from the crime scene to be completed to determine whether Harer’s death was a homicide or a suicide. The results of those tests would determine the direction of the investigation. He said they had expanded the analysis beyond the Illinois State Police Crime Lab to get a more specialized testing process.

As for when the investigation will be concluded, Bogart said he hopes to present the complete investigation to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office within the next month or so, but he said there is no official timeline.

“I don’t want to rush anything,” Bogart said. “We’re being patient.”

Crest Hill Police Chief Ed Clark confirmed that, as of this week, Flores still is on paid administrative leave, and that he has not heard any updates on the case.

The Herald-News filed its own lawsuit this week for the release of the
911 call alerting police to Harer’s death. WESCOM in February denied a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a recording, but the Illinois Attorney General’s Office determined, in a nonbinding opinion, that it should be disclosed. An attorney from the law firm Loevy and Loevy filed the suit.

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