Chicago police officer Dante Servin was acquitted on a technicality on April 22, a decision that had the courtroom and civil rights activists in an uproar. Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless conduct and reckless discharge of a firearm in connection with the death of Rekia Boyd in March 2012, CBS Local reported.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stands by how the case was handled.
A press conference at St. James AME Church was held after the verdict announcement. Clergy members and leaders from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition called for the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene.
“There was an officer that was guilty of murder that was found innocent,” Rainbow PUSH Spokesperson Jonathan Jackson said.
Rainbow PUSH’s website describes it as “…a multiracial, multi-issue, progressive, international membership organization fighting for social change.” It was formed in 1996 with the merging of two organizations Rev. Jesse L Jackson Sr. had started earlier:
People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH) and the Rainbow Coalition.
Rev. Jeanette Wilson of Rainbow PUSH told CBS Local that Servin was “under-charged” in connection with 22-year-old Boyd’s death. The maximum sentence Servin faced was five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
On the night of March 21, 2012, Boyd and her friends were approached by Servin in his car. Servin allegedly told the group to “shut up” and engaged in a verbal altercation with one of the friends.
Servin fired on the group from his car. As they ran, Boyd was shot in head and Antonio Cross was shot in the hand. Boyd would die a day later in the hospital, Huffington Post reported.
Rev. Wilson also questioned the Chicago justice system’s ability to remain objective in cases where police are the defendants.
“Obviously we cannot trust local law enforcement and local state’s attorneys to be objective in cases where African-Americans and people of color are involved as victims,” Wilson told CBS Local.
The FBI Supplementar y Homicide Report for 2012, the year Boyd died, states African-Americans made up 31 percent of those killed by police during arrest or “by circumstances.”
They made up 39 percent of those considered not attacking when killed.
African-Americans account for 13 percent of the total U.S. population. In Chicago,
African-Americans account for 30 percent of the total population and 80 percent of police shooting victims, Huffington Post reported.
James D. Montgomery, an attorney representing the Boyd family, told Huffington Post, “The police spokesperson publicly claimed that the officer fired in defense of his life when a man approached his vehicle and pointed a gun at him…Incidentally, no gun was found.”
The Chicago Police Department first stated that Cross approached Servin with a weapon. Another Chicago police officer told DNAinfo that Servin “…thought for sure he was going to be shot.”
The Independent Police Review Authority said no weapon was found.
Prosecutors later confirmed that Cross was holding a cell phone, not a weapon.
Cross told a local radio station that he was holding the phone to his ear and speaking into it at the time of the shooting, Huffington Post reported.
Martinez Sutton, Boyd’s brother, had a message for Chicago police: “You’re sworn to protect lives. Not take them away…(the police) don’t think about the family they’re destroying.”
Servin was the first Chicago police officer to be brought to trial for a shooting death in almost 20 years, Huffington Post reported.
-Dionna Cheatham ’15, Junior Politics/Opinions Editor