FBI opens civil rights probe into 2013 police shooting death of man who family says was unarmed
Police officer holding gun (Shuttershock)

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation into the 2013 shooting death by Chicago police of a man whose family says was unarmed when two officers opened fire on him in his car, officials said on Saturday.

Interim Chicago Police Superintendent John Escalante, who was appointed last month, said in a statement he had placed the two officers on administrative duties after recently learning of the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

The revelation of the FBI probe follows large street demonstrations in Chicago over police use of force, and an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice last month that it was investigating practices at the city's Police Department.

The family of Esau Castellanos in a wrongful death lawsuit filed last year in federal court disputed the accounts of two Chicago police officers, Shawn Lawryn and Juan Martinez, who shot the man.

The officers said they fired at him, striking him three times, after he opened fire on them, even though investigators found no gun in his car, the lawsuit stated.

Castellanos, a father of three from Mexico, delivered pizzas for a living, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He was shot to death after he crashed his car while driving under the influence of alcohol with the two officers on his tail, according to the newspaper, which first reported on the FBI investigation.

The Tribune reported a brief reference to the case was included in 3,000 pages of emails related to police shootings that Chicago officials released on Dec. 31.

The FBI in a statement confirmed the agency's Chicago field office has opened a civil rights probe into the shooting.

"The FBI will continue to collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough, and impartial manner," the statement said.

Escalante said the FBI probe has been open for more than two years.

A Chicago police spokesman and the FBI declined further comment on the case.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces pressure from protesters to resign in a controversy over his handling of a 2014 fatal shooting of a black teenager by white Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke, who has been charged with murder for the death.

Emanuel dismissed Escalante's predecessor, Garry McCarthy, following days of protests over the shooting of the teenager, Laquan McDonald.

A representative from the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police could not be reached for comment on the FBI investigation.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and James Dalgleish)