Stop The Violence

by  

The month started with me covering the case of Jonathan Tolliver. The jurors had come to a deadlock on the first trial and I covered the retrial.

Tolliver was on trial for the death of Police Officer Michael Ceriale. Ceriale and his partner, Joseph Ferenzi, were staking out a Robert Taylor Homes building on an undercover drug sting Aug. 15, 1998 when Ceriale was shot and killed.

First there was a new set of jurors to be picked. This took two days. Two jurors asked to be excused, one because he said he had a history of mental problems.

Then the testimonies started. Ceriale’s partner said on May 3 when he testified that he had never seen the gunman’s face.

The first ones to testify were so-called friends of Tolliver’s who changed their testimonies from the first trial. Now they were testifying in his favor. The first friend said she was coerced into her testimony because the police had threatened to involve her.

One of the friends was Carlos Hendricks, who said the police beat him and made him testify against Tolliver. On May 9, when the assistant State’s Attorney Jim McKay asked where he had been beaten, Hendricks first pointed to his eye but quickly put his hand on his head. McKay then asked Hendricks why he had put his hand over his eye. He replied that he didn’t know: “I made a mistake,” Hendricks said. The final outcome of the trial found Tolliver guilty in spite of the witnesses’ recantation. The jury didnt believe them.

Latanya Haggerty
On May 7, 2001, I attended the hearing in which the family of Latanya Haggerty received a settlement of $18 million from the City of Chicago. It was formalized in court today. Latanya Haggerty was the woman shot and killed by police officers in a traffic dispute.

When the police approached the car, they killed her because they thought she had a weapon in her hands when it was really a cell phone. The Mayor gave in to the settlement, saying only that the City Council Finance Committee would have to OK the same.

The Mayor planned to meet with the family the next day and express his apologies. The family was represented by two attorneys, James Montgomery and Johnny Cochran (the attorney in the O.J. Simpson trial). The family consists of the mother, father, a sister and two brothers.

One of her brothers, who had been vocal the entire time in the anti-police brutality marches with the Rev. Paul Jakes, spoke, “We would like to get on with our lives.”

Raid at Stateway
Then I was on to the case of the Stateway Gardens raid. The raid occurred on Feb. 22, 2001. I learned about the incident from an article May 4 in the Chicago Sun-Times. Stateway Local Advisory Council President Francine Washington asked Police Superintendent Terry Hillard to investigate the raid in March. “They (policemen) need to stop thinking that just because they have a license to kill and they wear a badge that they call the shots,” Washington said.

Back on Dec. 20, 1999, I interviewed Washington about the job the police were doing since they had taken over. The CHA police had been fired and the regular police took over. She had expressed fear for her own life, saying that the police came into the complex with their weapons drawn when they stepped out of their cars, regardless of the complaint.

A later article in the Lakefront Outlook, written by Todd Spivak, said the LAC filed a suit in U.S. District Court with the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, which had set up shop at Stateway to document incidents of police misconduct.

The director, Randolph Stone, said, “We’ve been concerned about the relationship between the residents and the police.”

The community has a long-standing basketball tournament that takes place in the field house. The tournament has been going on for years and has been noted for its success in creating an organized setting for the youth to engage in constructive activities. It is called the Stateway Roundball Classic. In the class action complaint filed May 3, 2001 by Mandel about the incident, the lawyers cited a Sun-Times article from July 31, 1994, pg. 23, in which the Mayor talked about the Roundball Classic: “New ideas – that’s what you need. Some of these guys could have been gang-bangers. Now they’re maturing, playing together, playing as a team. That’s what life is all about.”

He was talking about the same games. The tournament teaches teamwork, love, respect and a lot of other good things.

On Feb. 22 in the evening at about 8 p.m., over 30 Chicago police officers blocked the field house’s exits and refused to let the people leave. There were over 250 people at this event that night. They were from all over the city, other housing units and some who were from outside the CHA housing complexes, even from as far as Oak Park. It was a place for our different communities to come together as one, something positive for us out of all the conflict we face daily just living in CHA. Everyone there was searched.

Francine Washington, the president of the Stateway Gardens Local Advisory Council, wrote a letter to the police Superintendent Terry Hilliard on March 22, 2001, demanding to know why they would do something like this. In this letter, she also states that Hillard had at first referred her to the Chief of Patrol, John Richardson, during a board meeting, who had informed her that he knew nothing about it.

The letter states that she was promised an investigation into the situation but received no answer from him or anyone else on the matter. In the letter to the superintendent, she asks these questions: Why this was allowed to happen? What was the goal? What were they trying to accomplish? Who ordered the raid and who had organized same?

According to the lawsuit, the raid was “coordinated” by Commander Ernest Brown, with whom I had an interview when the regular police took over from the CHA officers.

In the interview, Dec. 20, 1999, Brown told me the reason for the replacement was to have residents treated no differently than they treat the people in Beverly Hills.

This matter was taken to the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic and the case is being handled by Craig Futterman, assistant clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School.

This suit was filed against more than 20 officers starting with Ernest Brown and the City of Chicago claiming that the civil rights of the 250 African American defendants to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated when the police raided the field house that night.

The police even searched a woman who was 9 months pregnant, holding her 2-year old in one hand and a diaper in the other, according to the press release given to me by Futterman during my interview. They searched a one-year-old baby. They arrested one man on a charge of disorderly conduct from the whole incident. They found no weapons or drugs during the whole search.

The lawsuit covers the mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation that the people suffered. It seeks awards for compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney’s fees.

The lawsuit mentions Brenda Williams, 25, who remained in the field house after preparing community youth to participate in a future talent show, just to watch the game with her 1-year-old daughter, Breshontae. She was forced to line up with the rest and put her baby on the floor, who they also searched. Breshontae is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

I went to interview Craig Futterman first. After he gave me the press release and the copy of the court order, Futterman said he was picked for the job “because I was doing work at Stateway before. I work with the LAC (Local Advisory Council) for police accountability and developing community-based programs. I began working with residents to do documentation works on human rights violations. The people called me the next day.”

Futterman said he works closely with law students.

“Students learn the fundamentals and not just from books. They learn how it affects real people and advocates civil rights for all of us. Because of the special problems of policemen’s mistreatment of public housing residents, we’ve been approached by Stateway to help. The new program started just this past year, fall of 2000.”

“We began informally working in late fall and have a better sense of the issues between residents and police.”

Futterman said any of those 250 people should contact him.

“Anyone interested in talking, anyone who can help, I would like for them to contact me, leave a number to contact them. Unless I know about the people, I can’t help. I would like to protect them.”

Craig B. Futterman’s address is: Attorney at Law, University of Chicago Law School, 6020 S. University Ave. The phone number is (773) 702-9611. The fax number is (773) 702-2063. All of those who were at the raid also can go directly to the Neighborhood Conservation Corps at 3544 S. State St., room 102. You can stop any time during the week and leave information with them.

I found Jamie Kalven at the NCC office during June for my interview with him. He has one heck of a hand shake, which made me comfortable with him right away.

Kalven said he works with Stateway residents.

“We work with the LAC at Stateway. We generate jobs for residents. We’re also working with Stateway’s civil rights project as on this law suit.

“Working with Craig Futterman and the Mandel Legal Clinic is like a human rights project, holding the police accountable for their actions.”

Kalven said he had been working with Futterman for six months when the raid occurred.

“Craig’s law students did interviews and collected stories before the lawsuit was filed,” Kalevn said. “The first thing that happened was that Francine Washington sent a letter to Hillard asking for an explanation. That was the first step and we kept getting information from the participants.

“We’re not anti-police. We want good law enforcement but we don’t think the raid was proper. We feel all the residents as citizens of the city and should be treated as other residents in the city.”

In the press release I got from Futterman, I read that Kalven states that police mistreatment of residents is due to the City policy of “land clearance for redevelopment.”

In the next paragraph of the release, it explains that the “pending removal of the buildings has not improved the CHA’s ‘deferred maintenance’ policy that CHA chief Terry Peterson has acknowledged has been in effect for more than a quarter of a century.”

What I See
Today, I see the police in my building as regularly as I see the mailman. I have been searched more than once until I started to go to the CAPS meeting to tell them who I am and that I wanted them to stop searching me.

Like all my neighbors, I have no way to fight them legally. But I wanted them to know not to come beating on my door like before. I have pictures of the dents they made on my door beating on it.

They claimed someone had run into my apartment as they chased them up to the fifth floor. If I didn’t open the door, the police promised to kick it in. I did the only thing I could do. I opened the door and let them search my apartment. Many more of the law-abiding tenants go through the same thing.

The gang–bangers and drug sellers are in the lobby all day and night and the police are there at least once a day seeming to arrest any one they think is not supposed to be there.

It seems they’re not arresting the drug dealers. Many of the residents feel like me, that we are the prisoners.

On Tuesday, June 19, three new cops came into my apartment with the same old story: They saw someone run in to my apartment.

I didn’t open the door for them. I had been out on the gallery cleaning up so that I don’t get a fine from the management. When I came in for more water, I left the door closed but not locked. They did knock and then came in. I let them look around and leave.

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