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By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!!
THE HOUSTON RIOTS/CAMP LOGAN MUTINY OF 1917 AND 19 BLACK SOLDIERS OF THE 24TH U.S. INFANTRY REGIMENT
The Houston Riot of 1917, also known as the Camp Logan Mutiny, involved 156 soldiers of the all-black 3rd Battalion, 24th
Infantry – a unit of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. The incident occurred on August 23, 1917, lasting roughly two hours on a hot, rainy night, and resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and 15 white civilians. The episode has the distinction of being the only
race riot in U.S. history where more whites then blacks were killed, and it also resulted in both the largest murder trial and the largest court martial in U.S. history.
Just months after America’s entry into World War I, the soldiers of this historic all-black unit had been dispatched to build military facilities in Harris County, where they met animosity from whites beyond the everyday insults of Jim Crow law. Here, the service of “arrogant, strutting representatives of black soldiery” was hated and feared. An Army report confirmed the Houstonians view of black soldiers, concluding that both police and white citizens felt that “a nigger is a nigger and that his status is not effected by the uniform he wears.”
On July 24, 1917, construction began for Camp Logan. Houston had gotten its military installation, and on July 28, it got 654 men of the all-black 24th Infantry – with its all-white commanding officer group. The unit had been dispatched from Columbus, N.M. for seven weeks duty guarding Camp Logan’s construction. Their arrival in Houston came three weeks after the most violent race war, a massacre really, had occurred in East St. Louis, when gangs of whites roamed through black neighborhoods
indiscriminately beating and murdering black men, women, and children on July 1-3. (Some of the 24th soldiers had donated money to a fund to help the black victims in East St. Louis.)
In striking their deal with the federal government, Houston officials had promised “in the spirit of patriotism” there would be no racial trouble, that black soldiers would be welcomed, but the city’s whites had no such intention of opening their arms to the 24th, regardless the length of their stay.
Chief of Police Clarence Brock, whose 159-man force already had a miserable reputation of brutality and other forms of ill-treatment towards the city’s black populace, had even instructed his men to avoid using the term “nigger” when
addressing the soliders, but that edict was widely ignored as patrolmen harassed and arrested soldiers for minor infractions and
perceived slights that further increased racial tensions in a city where blacks were openly and routinely referred to as “niggers” by
police and white citizens alike. Gradually, the soldiers began to routinely disobey the Jim Crow laws, especially when it came to public transport and the requirement that they sit in the back of trolleys – which many of the soldiers refused to do. Their disobience and “insolence” led to predictably harsh enforcement from police and white Houstonians hurled insults at the soldiers at every turn, as did white soldiers and workers constructing Camp Logan. But none were more brazen in their verbal and physical attacks than Houston policemen. Yet, for the evening of August 23, the Houston Chamber of Commerce had planned a festive “watermelon party” to officially welcome the black soldiers. Instead, Houston got a chaotic evening of frenzied terror it would never forget, and rarely mention.
That morning, patrolman Lee Sparks, whose penchant for brutality
against blacks was well known, and his partner, Rufus Daniels, had pursued a man accused of participating in a dice game. Their
chase led them to a house where they arrested a thinly clad woman and accused her of hiding the man. Outside, near the police call box, a 24th soldier approached and asked Starks what was going on and if he could get clothes for the woman.
Sparks immediately began pistol-whipping the soldier and supposedly said, “That’s the way we do things in the South. We’re
running things not the damned niggers.”
Later, that afternoon, a military policeman from the 24th, Corporal Charles Baltimore, became involved when he inquired of
the soldier’s arrest. Baltimore was also beaten by Sparks, and then shot at as he fled. He was caught, beaten again and taken to the police station. Once he was set free and sent back to camp all beaten up, the infantry became angry, and decided to strike on the evening of August 23. 156 angry soldiers, stole weapons from the camp depot and marched on the city of Houston. They were met outside the city by the police and a crowd of armed citizens, frightened by the reports of a mutiny. A virtual race riot began, which left 20 people dead – four soldiers, four policemen, and 12 civilians.
Order was restored the next day, and the War Department disarmed the soldiers. The Third Battalion was sent by rail back to New Mexico. Martial law was declared in Houston, and the Third Battalion was returned to Columbus, New Mexico. Seven of its soldiers agreed to testify in exchange for clemency. Once there, 118 of them were arrested and charged with murder and mutiny and were sent to the stockade at nearby Fort Bliss in El Paso to begin their wait for court martial.
Between November 1, 1917 and March 26, 1918, the army held three separate courts-martial with the first, United States v.
William C. Nesbit, convening in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston’s Gift Memorial Chapel, which had the only space on post large
enough to hold a trial for the first 63 men – all represented by a single attorney working on a mere two weeks preparation. (Maj.
Harry S. Grier was inspector general of the 36th Divison and had taught law at West Point, but had no trial experience and was not
a lawyer.) Their charges were: disobeying orders, mutiny, murder, and aggravated assault. All of the men entered not guilty pleas and throughout the ordeal, even to the gallows, maintained their innocence.
Some witnesses may have been coerced into testifying against their fellow soldiers, others promised leniency or immunity,
others merely unreliable, but none of the testimony was conclusive that any of the men on trail had participated in the event. In all, testimony was heard from 169 prosecution witnesses, but only 29 for the defense. On November 28, 13 of the men were sentenced to be hung, however, they were not notified of their sentence until Dec. 9, two days before their execution.
Sgt. William C. Nesbitt
Corp. Larsen J. Brown
Corp. James Wheatley
Corp. Jesse Moore
Corp. Charles W. Baltimore*
Pvt. William Brackenridge
Pvt. Thomas C. Hawkins
Pvt. Carlos Snodgrass
Pvt. Ira B. Davis
Pvt. James Divine
Pvt. Frank Johnson
Pvt. Rosley W. Young
Pvt. Pat MacWharter
In a final letter to his family, Pvt. 1st Class Thomas C. Hawkins wrote:”Dear Mother and Father, When this letter reaches you
I will be beyond the veil of sorrow. I will be in heaven with the angels…I am sentenced to be hanged for the trouble that
happened in Houston, Texas. Altho (sic) I am not guilty of the crime that I am accused of, but mother, it is God’s will that I go
now and in this way….”
Pre-dawn, on December 11, near Salado Creek, the 13 soldiers were taken to hastily constructed gallows and summarily
hung. There had been no notice given to the media or public and their sentences and hangings would not be formally announced until later that morning. As they were escorted to the gallows, the soldiers were reportedly calm and sang hymns.
A white soldier from Company C., 19th Infantry, which had been charged with guarding the prisoners – “the hanging detail,” it
was called – recounted the scene: “The doomed men were taken off the trucks, not one making the slightest attempt to resist. They
were shivering a little, but I think this was due more to the cold rather than fear. The unlucky thirteen were line up. The conductors took their places and the men for the last time heard the command, “March!” Thirteen ropes dangled from the crossbeam of the scaffold, a chair in front of every rope, six on one side, seven on the other. As the ropes were being fastened about the men’s necks, big (Pvt. Frank) Johnson’s voice suddenly broke into a hymn – “Lord, I’m comin’ home” – and the others joined him. The eyes of even the hardest of us were wet.”
Because the U.S. was at war, the swiftness of the executions was backed by the Articles of War. However, that did not temper
the outrage from the black community, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but also some
military officials. Acting Judge Advocate Gen., Brig. Gen. Samuel T. Ansell, was particularly angered and said: “The men were
executed immediately upon the termination of the trial and before their records could be forwarded to Washington or examined by
anybody, and without, so far as I can see, any one of them having time or opportunity to seek clemency from the source of
clemency, if he had been so advised.” The sentence was carried out without appeal. Two more mass courts-martial would follow, resulting in six more hangings the following year. While the NAACP began a campaign to obtain the release of the imprisoned soldiers, General Order No. 7 (which Ansell proposed) was issued on January 17, 1918 providing that no enlisted personnel could be executed without first examination of the trial records by the judge advocate general and confirmation of the sentence by the president of the United States. That commuted 10 death sentences in the two other trials, but had no benefit for the 13 black soldiers of questionable guilt buried in the far reaches of Fort Sam Houston in makeshift graves.
The military tribunals indicted 118 enlisted men total for participating in the mutiny and finding 110 guilty. A total of 19 soldiers were hanged and 63 received life sentences in federal prison. One soldier was judged incompetent to stand trial. Two white officers faced courts-martial, but were released. No white civilians were brought to trial. Some soldiers served as many as 20 years before their release.
For years afterward, the incident clouded and complicated race relations, especially in the War Department.
Some blacks openly applauded the mutiny as a justified resistance against racist provocation. This inflammatory opinion piece, quoted in Mark Ellis’ Race, War and Surveillance, landed the editor who agreed to run it in federal prison:
“We would rather see you shot by the highest tribunal of the United States Army because you dared to protect a Negro woman from the insult of a southern brute in the form of a policeman, than to have you forced to go to Europe to fight for a liberty you cannot enjoy. Negro women regret that you mutinied, and we are sorry that you spilt innocent blood, but we are not sorry that five southern policemen’s bones now bleech in the graves of Houston, Tex.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army noted “the tendency of the Negro soldier, with fire arms in his possession … to become arrogant, overbearing, abusive and a menace to the community in which he happens to be stationed.” It held down its black enlistment throughout the interwar period.
This policy would continue — until the raw manpower of Black men was required in World War II trumped the discussion .Post Views: 956
By Elliot Booker — 5 years ago
By: 24/7 Wall St
The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of 1965 made great strides toward racial equality. However, this legislation ― ending decades of government-sponsored racial oppression and intended to reverse the effects of hundreds of years of slavery ― by no means resolved racial inequality in the United States.
Racial differences in the United States are prevalent regardless of geography. While social and economic gaps are wider in some states than in others, the gaps exist across all areas, and we were unable to identify any states where black Americans are better off than white residents. For this reason, we expanded last year’s list of the 10 worst states for black Americans to include all 50 states.
Across virtually all social and economic measures, there are wide racial disparities. Compared to white people in the United States, African Americans are considerably less likely to own their homes, twice as likely to be unemployed, nearly three times as likely to live in poverty, and five times more likely to go to prison.
According to Economic Policy Institute Research Associate Richard Rothstein, these disparities are entirely attributable to residential segregation, which in turn is attributable to deliberate, racially conscious, government policies implemented over the course of the 20th century. During this time, the Federal Housing Administration financed thousands of suburban development projects with the explicit requirement that no homes be sold to African Americans.
For Rothstein, the existence of racial segregation today is “a constitutional violation, and it requires a remedy.”
Housing equity is the single largest source of middle class family wealth. The tens of thousands of homes bought by white families in the 50’s and 60’s in many cases have tripled in value. Because this wealth is frequently transmitted from one generation to another, Rothstein explained, economic mobility, especially for black Americans, is extremely limited. The removal of such policies was effectively an empty promise, he added, because very few African Americans could afford to live in the neighborhoods after the equity gains.
Today, 71.0% of white individuals and families own their homes, in stark contrast with the black homeownership rate of 41.2%. In some states, the gap is considerably larger. In North Dakota, fewer than one in 10 black householders own their homes, while more than two in every three white individuals and families own the homes in which they live. The gap between the white and black homeownership rates in Maine, at 72.6% and 13.3%, is even wider.
This troubling ownership disparity speaks to the similarly wide racial wealth gap. Black families in the United States have only 5% as much wealth as white families.
In her widely cited book The New Jim Crow (2010), Ohio State University Professor Michelle Alexander found that there were more African Americans in jails, prisons, or on probation or parole, than there were enslaved in 1850. While the percentage of black Americans imprisoned today is far lower than the share who were enslaved in 1850, African Americans are disproportionately represented in prisons compared to whites.
For every 100,000 black people nationwide, 2,306 are incarcerated, versus just 450 white prisoners per 100,000 white Americans. The black incarceration rate is highest in West Virginia, where 7,360 black residents are in prison for every 100,000 black West Virginians, 11 times the state’s white incarceration rate of 662 per 100,000.
Rothstein attributes this problem also to residential segregation. “Police might profile African Americans in integrated neighborhoods, but you wouldn’t have the occupying force that we have now.” It is this large police presence, he explained, that has led to confrontational and often violent relationships between law enforcement and African American members of these communities, especially young people.
One consequence of segregation is massive funding disparities within school districts, leading to similarly wide educational attainment gaps, which in turn contribute to racial inequality more generally.
Per pupil annual primary and secondary school spending in the United States is approximately $10,700. Schools with predominantly non-white student an estimated $733 less per student per year than schools with 90 percent or more white students, according to a report from the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights from the 2013-2014 school year, 11% of black students ― versus 5% of white students ― attend schools where more than 20% of teachers are in their first year of teaching.
While more than one in every three white adults nationwide has at least a bachelor’s degree, fewer than one in five black adults has a college degree.
> Pct. residents black: 3.1% (13th lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 30.4% (15th lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 3,473 per 100,000 (8th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 14.8% (the highest)
Compared with most states, there are relatively few black residents in Iowa. Compared to white state residents, African American Iowa residents are far more likely to live in poverty. The poverty rate among black state residents of 34.4% is higher than the national black poverty rate of 27.0%. It is also more than three times greater than the poverty rate among white residents of 10.5%, inline with the national white poverty rate of 10.8%. Similarly, the percentage of white laborers looking for work, at 3.2%, is lower than the national white unemployment rate of 4.6%. Meanwhile, 14.8% of black Iowan workers are unemployed, well above the national black unemployment rate of 9.6% ― and more than 4.5 greater than the white jobless rate.
Iowa’s incarceration rate is even more divided along racial lines. For every 100,000 black Iowans, 3,473 are in prison, the eighth highest such rate of all states. For every 100,000 white residents, by contrast, only 324 are incarcerated, one of the lower such rates.
> Pct. residents black: 4.6% (19th lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 31.4% (18th lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,452 per 100,000 (23rd highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 5.3% (10th lowest)
Compared with black residents in other states, African Americans living in Nebraska are relatively well educated and seem to have more job opportunities. The percentage of black adults with at least a bachelor’s degree and the percentage of black laborers out of a job, at 24.2% and 5.3%, respectively, are considerably better than the comparable rates across the nation.
While for many white Americans, a college degree and gainful employment all but guarantee good economic outcomes, like owning a home, for black Nebraska residents this does not appear to be the case. Just 31.4% of black householders own their homes, well below the national black homeownership rate of 41.2% and in stark contrast with the white Nebraska homeownership rate of 70.0%.
> Pct. residents black: 3.8% (17th lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 35.9% (24th lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 3,651 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 5.9% (11th lowest)
Colorado residents are among the most well-off in the country. As in every state, however, the prosperity is largely distributed along racial lines. The unemployment rate among black workers in the state, at 5.9%, is lower than the national black unemployment rate of 9.6%. However, it is still well above the jobless rates for whites both in Colorado and nationally, at 3.8% and 4.6%, respectively. Black Colorado residents are also far more likely to go to prison compared with their white peers. For every 100,000 black Colorado residents, 3,651 are in prison, the fifth highest figure compared with black populations of other states and several times greater than Colorado’s white incarceration rate of 509 per 100,000.
Economic disadvantages such as these can contribute to adverse health outcomes. For black mothers living in the state, the infant mortality rate is over 10 deaths per 1,000 live births ― close to double the rate among white Colorado mothers and mirroring the national difference.
> Pct. residents black: 32.1% (2nd highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 46.9% (7th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,749 per 100,000 (18th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 9.7% (22nd highest)
Black Louisiana residents make up 32.1% of the state’s population, more than twice the national proportion and the second highest of all states after only Mississippi. Despite the relatively large black population, Louisiana is one of the worst states for African Americans.
As is the case nationwide, black Louisiana residents are far more likely to go to prison than their white peers. The incarceration rate among white state residents, at 675 per 100,000 white Louisianans, is the fourth highest among whites nationwide. It is still much lower than the incarceration rate among black residents of 2,749 per 100,000 African American residents, which is just the 18th highest compared to other states’ black populations. Black families in Louisiana are among the most likely to own their home, with 46.9% of homes with black heads of household owned by their occupants, the second highest such rate in the nation. However, the rate is still in stark contrast with the white homeownership rate of 74.4%. Similarly, a typical black household earns just over 50% of the white median household income of $52,940, itself not particularly high compared to white households nationwide.
6. New Jersey
> Pct. residents black: 12.8% (16th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 37.8% (22nd highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 1,992 per 100,000 (13th lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 10.0% (tied – 20th highest)
The poverty rate among white residents in New Jersey of 6.4% is well below the national poverty rate of 15.5%. Black residents, however, are more than three times as likely to live in poverty as their white counterparts, with nearly 20% of New Jersey’s African American residents living in poverty. Homeownership rates are usually divided along racial lines, and New Jersey is no exception. Three out of every four homes with white heads of households are owned by their occupants, compared to a black homeownership rate of just 37.8%.
As is the case nationwide, incarceration rates in New Jersey are substantially higher for the African American population than for white residents. Out of every 100,000 black state residents, nearly 1,000 are incarcerated, roughly five times the incarceration rate among white New Jersey residents.
> Pct. residents black: 14.1% (14th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 38.5% (21st highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,128 per 100,000 (17th lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 12.2% (tied – 5th highest)
By many measures, whites do better in Illinois than they do nationally, while the opposite is true for black state residents. The annual income of a typical white household in Illinois exceeds the corresponding national figure by about $5,000. Conversely, the typical black household in Illinois earns about $2,000 less than the typical American black household, and barely half of what the typical white household makes. Poverty rates along racial lines echo the income discrepancy in Illinois. While 10.8% of whites nationwide live in poverty, only 9.3% of whites in Illinois do. In contrast, the national black poverty rates of 27.0% is significantly lower than the corresponding state rate of 30.6%.
Lower incomes in the state accompany lower homeownership rates. While nearly three quarters of whites in Illinois own the home they live in, the homeownership rate among black residents is just under 39%. The black homeownership rate nationally is slightly higher, at 41.2%.
> Pct. residents black: 15.5% (12th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 43.7% (14th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,555 per 100,000 (22nd highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 9.0% (25th lowest)
Driven in part by a relatively high incarceration rate, black Americans in Florida are the most likely to be disenfranchised. Nearly one in four black Florida residents have had their right to vote revoked in some way, the highest proportion in the country. In absolute terms, 520,521 black individuals living in Florida are disenfranchised, also the highest number in the nation.
The infant mortality rate within the black population in Florida, at 11.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, is slightly higher than the nationwide rate of 11.0 deaths per 1,000 births among black American mothers. At the same time, however, the infant mortality rate among the white population in Florida, at 5.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, is lower than the comparable national figure.
> Pct. residents black: 18.9% (9th highest)
> Black homeownership rate: 46.2% (8th highest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,418 per 100,000 (25th highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 7.9% (18th lowest)
Across the country, median annual income of black households is about $24,000 lower than the median income of white households. The income disparity in Virginian is even greater. Even though black households tend to earn more in Virginia than they do across the country, the typical black household in the state earns about $27,000 less than the typical white household.
Subject to some of the strictest disenfranchisement laws in the country, the black community in Virginia is among the most politically debilitated in the country. Nearly a quarter of a million blacks in the state ― roughly a fifth of the black population ― are ineligible to exercise their democratic right to vote. Only Florida and Kentucky have a higher share of disenfranchised black residents.
> Pct. residents black: 5.6% (22nd lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 23.8% (8th lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 2,321 per 100,000 (22nd lowest)
> Black unemployment rate: 14.1% (2nd highest)
The disproportionate incarceration of black Americans has been well-documented ― and Minnesota is one of the worst cases. Just 216 out of every 100,000 of the state’s caucasian population is in prison, the second lowest incarceration rate among whites in the country. Meanwhile, 2,321 of every 100,000 black Minnesota residents are imprisoned, which is the 22nd lowest rate among blacks. Black families tend to earn less money than white families, and that disparity is pronounced in Minnesota. A typical black household in Minnesota brings in just $27,026 a year, less than half of the typical white household’s income.
> Pct. residents black: 6.2% (24th lowest)
> Black homeownership rate: 25.8% (10th lowest)
> Black incarceration rate: 4,042 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Black unemployment rate: 11.1% (9th highest)
Wisconsin is the worst state in the country for black Americans. The median annual income of black households in the state is just $26,053, much lower than the median for black families nationwide and equal to just 46.5% the median income of white Wisconsin households of $56,083. Similarly, while 29.9% of white adults in Wisconsin have at least a bachelor’s degree, 12.8% of black adults in the state have completed college. This is also much lower than the bachelor degree attainment rate among black adults nationwide of 19.7%. The unemployment gap between black and white state residents is also troubling. With a white jobless rate of 4.1%, the state’s job market is relatively strong for the white population. For black Wisconsin residents, however, the unemployment rate is 11.1% ― higher than the national unemployment rate for all black Americans.Post Views: 1,149
By Elliot Booker — 5 years ago
Every five days, on average, a Chicago police officer fired a gun at someone.
In 435 shootings over a recent six-year span, officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 others.
While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention, they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.
Now, after months of struggles with Chicago police to get information through the Freedom of Information Act, the Chicago Tribune has compiled an unprecedented database of details of every time police fired a weapon from 2010 through 2015.
Analysis of that data revealed startling patterns about the officers who fired and the people they shot at.
Among the findings:
•At least 2,623 bullets were fired by police in 435 shootings. In 235 of those incidents, officers struck at least one person; in another 200 shootings, officers missed entirely.
•About four out of every five people shot by police were African-American males.
•About half of the officers involved in shootings were African-American or Hispanic.
•The officers who fired weren’t rookies but, on average, had almost a decade of experience.
•Of the 520 officers who fired their weapons, more than 60 of them did so in more than one incident.
•The number of shootings by police — hits and misses — declined over the six years, from more than 100 in 2011 to 44 in 2015.
The analysis comes at a time when police in Chicago and throughout the country face heightened scrutiny after several controversial police shootings, often of minorities, have been captured on video and gone viral.
The Tribune’s study encompasses high-profile cases such as the McDonald scandal as well as scores of incidents that were not caught on video and received little or no attention. It begins on New Year’s Day 2010 with a teen shot in the stomach while handcuffed to a security fence in the Park Manor neighborhood. It ends six years later, on the day after Christmas 2015, when an officer wounded an armed suspect on the Far South Side.
For years, examining the full scale of the problem in Chicago was impossible because the city refused to release most details about police-involved shootings. Before the release last year of the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing brought pressure for transparency, the only information made public in the hours after a shooting came in comments from a police union spokesman at the scene and perhaps a short statement from the Police Department. As investigations dragged on for months or years, the details remained hidden.
The data on officer shootings were released to the Tribune only after a seven-month battle with the city over its failure to fulfill public records requests. The department finally produced the data in July after the Tribune threatened to sue. Reporters then spent weeks comparing the data with information that was gathered earlier this year from the city’s police oversight agency as well as with other records, including autopsies and court records.
To be sure, policing the city’s most dangerous streets can be harrowing. Nearly 6,000 illegal guns have been seized in the city so far this year — a staggering amount of firepower that far outpaces other big cities. The dangers were on display in graphic detail earlier this month when the department released dramatic dashboard-camera video of officers being shot at while pursuing a carjacking suspect in their squad cars on the South Side. One officer suffered a graze wound to his face.
“As a police officer, you don’t wait for the shot to come in your direction,” Dean Angelo Sr., president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told the Tribune recently about the database findings. “You might not get a chance to return fire.”
But for many of those who live in the largely African-American communities where police most often open fire, the narrative of self-defense seems like a familiar script.
At a recent rally protesting police shootings, Charles Jenkins, a 61-year-old community activist who has spent his entire life on the city’s West Side, said he believes race plays a role in how authorities investigate shootings by police.
“It’s easier to believe, because they’re black, that an officer was in fear of their life and get(s) off,” he said
Those shot by Chicago police ranged in age from early teens to the elderly, the records show. The youngest, Dejuan Curry, was 14 when he was wounded in the leg in August 2015 after police said he refused to drop a weapon he held in his hand as he ran. A federal lawsuit is pending against Victor Razo, the officer who allegedly fired the shots. The Tribune’s records show that Razo was involved in two other shootings between 2010 and 2015.
The eldest victim, Hazel Jones-Huff, 92, was wounded when off-duty Officer Courtney Hill opened fire during a quarrel between neighbors, killing Jones-Huff’s 86-year-old husband. Jones-Huff was charged with battery for allegedly going after the officer with a broom, but a judge later acquitted her of all counts.
The records show the shootings in which a civilian was injured or killed were concentrated in a handful of high-crime police districts, all with largely African-American populations.
Leading the list was the Gresham District, which had 30 police shootings in which someone was injured or killed in the six-year span. Next were two other South Side districts — Englewood with 27 and Grand Crossing with 18. The Calumet and Harrison districts on the West Side each had 17, according to the records.
By contrast, the Jefferson Park and Near North districts, which have majority-white populations, each had four police shootings over the six years. The Town Hall District, which includes part of Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, the rest of Lakeview, Lincoln Square and part of Uptown, had none, the data show.
The officers who shot
From the data, the Tribune was able to identify the race of 300 of the 324 officers who opened fire in shootings that resulted in injuries or death.
Although white officers make up a larger portion of the police force, they don’t shoot citizens at a higher rate. Hispanic officers, meanwhile, make up only 19 percent of Chicago’s police force but fired in 26 percent of officer-involved shootings.
A little more than half of the officers who fired shots at people were minorities — 84 Hispanics (28 percent) and 69 blacks (23 percent). White officers made up 45 percent of the total — 136 officers in all. The other officers were listed as Asian/Pacific Islander.
The officers also tended to be experienced, not rookies who suddenly found themselves in over their heads. The records show officers who have shot at citizens had an average of about nine years on the job.
Not surprisingly, 87 percent of the police officers who fired their guns in fatal or nonfatal shootings were on duty, the analysis found. Yet that meant 31 shootings involved off-duty officers who wounded or killed people.
Over the six-year period, 520 officers fired a gun at a citizen. The force generally has about 12,000 members. But the Tribune found that 64 of them were involved in at least two separate shootings.
Several of the repeat shooters have been featured in Tribune stories in recent years. At least two of them, Marco Proano and Gildardo Sierra, have been the targets of criminal investigations by the FBI, although no charges have been filed against either.
Proano, who remains on the force on paid desk duty, killed a teenager during a struggle outside a South Side dance party in 2011, then was captured two years later on dashboard camera video cocking his gun sideways and firing into a car full of teens as it drove away, wounding two. Sierra was profiled in the Tribune in 2011 after he was involved in three shootings, two of them fatal, during a six-month span. Sierra resigned from the department last year.
In the past, the Independent Police Review Authority has not tracked officers involved in multiple shootings if the shootings were deemed justified.
Guglielmi, the police spokesman, said the department is now developing an early intervention system to identify and mentor officers who may be at risk, including officers who were recently involved in a shooting or other high-stress situation. The system “will not be designed to be punitive” but will function more as a “risk management” plan to get to an officer’s issues before they manifest on the street, he said.
Officers who have fired their weapons in multiple incidents also avoided public scrutiny in part because the police union contract bars the department from identifying officers after a shooting. In most cases, no information about the officers involved was ever made public unless a lawsuit was filed — and even then the city typically fought in court to keep records sealed.
Meanwhile, the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigations of officer-involved shootings often included testimony and reports from other officers who backed up one another’s accounts — a “code of silence” that has been criticized for years.
In all but a handful of shootings that IPRA investigated over the six-year span, the agency ruled the officers were justified in their use of deadly force.
The Tribune’s analysis showed that Chicago police are the only witnesses listed in most of the shootings, with civilian witnesses identified in just 83 of the incidents.
Alexa Van Brunt, an attorney with Northwestern University’s Roderick MacArthur Justice Center, said it’s often challenging to prove misconduct or a cover-up when it comes to an officer’s word against that of a civilian.
“We don’t have video evidence often,” Van Brunt said. “And if you have police officers lying on reports, that becomes the official record.”
‘He put me in that position’
No officer has fired at citizens more during the time period examined by the Tribune than Tracey Williams, an African-American tactical officer with nearly a decade on the job.
Over five years, Williams fired her gun five different times in various neighborhoods throughout the city — from North Lawndale to Fuller Park, the Tribune analysis shows.
Each time, she fired at a black male. The targets ranged in age from 17 to 45. One died, one survived with a gunshot to the leg and three others were not hit.
The only investigation to capture public attention involved the Dec. 4, 2010, killing of Ontario Billups in the South Side’s Gresham neighborhood.
Billups, 30, was sitting in an idling minivan with two friends in the 8100 block of South Ashland Avenue when Williams and her partner pulled up in an unmarked Chevrolet Tahoe, according to IPRA records.
In a statement she later gave to investigators, Williams said the car looked suspicious so she shined a spotlight into the van and ordered the occupants to show their hands. She was running up to the passenger side of the vehicle with her gun drawn when she said she saw Billups with a “dark object” in his hand.
“He turns,” Williams said. “As he’s turning towards me quickly his hand is coming out quickly with this dark object. I immediately fire a shot.”
Billups was shot once in the chest and died. The dark object turned out to be a bag of marijuana. Even though Billups was unarmed, Williams defended her use of force in her interview with IPRA investigators.
“His actions led to my actions,” she said. “He put me in that position.”
Meanwhile, Williams remained on the street. In one six-month period, from July 2012 to January 2013, the officer fired her gun in three separate incidents but missed. The next year, she wounded an armed 17-year-old boy in the leg. A review of that incident is pending, though most of the records have been sealed by IPRA and the Police Department because the boy was a minor.
In November, the city agreed to pay $500,000 to settle an excessive force lawsuit brought by Billups’ family. That brought the total cost to $643,000 for taxpayers to settle four lawsuits related to Williams since 2010, court records show.
The Tribune’s analysis found that most of the officers involved in multiple shootings over the six years were involved in two each.
Holding a socket wrench
The data compiled by the Tribune show how police calls turned into confrontations — ranging from seemingly benign calls such as trespass or drinking in the public way to extremely dangerous situations such as hostage standoffs or gang shootings.
Police released information about why officers were initially at the scene in 185 shootings over the six-year period. About a third of the incidents — 63 in total — began with officers responding to a report of shots fired or a person with a gun, according to the data. Fifteen shootings happened after police responded to a report of a robbery.
At least 40 shootings began with a traffic or street stop, either because of an alleged violation or after officers stopped and questioned a group congregated in public. In more than a third of the stops, officers gave chase on foot, pursuing suspects through residential backyards, alleys or over fences before opening fire, the data show.
In statements issued by police after the shootings, six of every 10 cited a suspect either pointing a gun or shooting at police as the reason officers opened fire. But of the 74 autopsy reports reviewed by the Tribune, at least 11 showed the shooting victims had been struck only in their back, buttocks or back of the head. The data show police also shot people who wielded other types of weapons, including knives — such as in the McDonald case — but also tire irons, screwdrivers, baseball bats and crowbars. In some cases, the gun police thought they saw turned out to be something else entirely — a wrench or a watch, a cellphone box or wallet.
Georgia Utendhal comforts one of her granddaughters, whose 16-year-old brother was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer in the 8700 block of South Morgan Street in Chicago on July 5, 2014.Post Views: 840