BY LA RISA LYNCH
Superintendent Garry McCarthy has begun the process to fire Dante Servin, the veteran police detective who fatally shot 22-year-old Rekia Boyd nearly three years ago in North Lawndale and set off months of protests.
McCarthy will file administrative charges with the Chicago Police Board Wednesday against Servin—only the second time McCarthy has moved to terminate an officer in a police-involved shooting.
The decision comes in parallel with the impending release of a video showing another fatal police shooting, in which an officer allegedly shoots 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, which city and community leaders have said could lead to massive protests. The officer involved in that shooting was indicted on murder charges today, the Cook County state’s attorney announced.
Meanwhile, Boyd’s brother Martinez Sutton, who has led the dogged fight to hold Servin accountable for his actions, applauded the decision but added, “I’ll be even happier if they actually did their jobs and had him in jail just like the rest of the criminals.”
In September, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), recommended Servin be fired. McCarthy had 90 days from that ruling to accept or reject the agency’s recommendation. Protesters have packed Police Board meetings for months, even shutting down the August meeting, criticizing McCarthy’s for the protracted process to fire Servin, who has been on the force since 1991. That prompted the often stoic superintendent to make a rare apology for the slow process.
In concurring with IPRA’s recommendation, McCarthy said Servin exercised “poor judgment” in the shooting death of Boyd in March 2012.
“After considerable deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that Officer Dante Servin showed incredibly poor judgment in his efforts to intervene in a low-level dispute while off-duty,” said McCarthy in a statement released to the media.
“His actions tragically resulted in the death of an innocent young woman and an unthinkable loss for a Chicago family and community,” the statement continued. “In the end, CPD has rules that we all must live by. Officer Servin violated those rules and he’s going to be held accountable for that.”
IPRA, the agency that investigates officer-involved shootings and police misconduct allegations, found that Servin violated several rules in the Boyd shooting. It also found Servin that provided inconsistent statements about the event and said that shooting into a crowd of people was “inattention to duty.”
Earlier this year, Servin faced criminal charges in Boyd’s death but was subsequently acquitted on a technicality. Servin faced several charges including involuntary manslaughter. But a Cook County judge dismissed the charges in April, ruling that Servin’s actions didn’t amount to reckless conduct but an intentional act that warranted a first-degree murder charge instead.
According to court testimony, Servin argued with Boyd and her friends about loud noise near Douglas Park before shooting at the group, killing Boyd and injuring another man. Servin, who shot over his shoulder while in his car, claimed self-defense because he thought someone had drawn a weapon, though none was found at the scene.
Servin is the second cop in an officer-involved shooting recommended for termination by McCarthy. The first is officer Francisco Perez, who IPRA recommended be fired this summer for making false statements and “inattention to duty” for firing at the wrong car in a 2011 drive-by shooting.
In October, McCarthy filed administrative charges against Perez, who was also off-duty working security at a restaurant in the 1100 block of North Ashland at the time of the shooting. His and Servin’s fates now lay in the hands of the Police Board.
But Servin’s dismissal won’t come any time soon. His case now goes before the full Police Board for a hearing, and Servin has several chances to appeal the board’s decision, if unfavorable.
Sutton took little solace in McCarthy’s late-evening announcement recommending Servin’s firing. He questioned “what the big holdup was” in McCarthy’s decision, which Sutton said could have been announced at last week’s Police Board meeting.
The struggle to bring about justice for his sister has been a long hard fight to get Servin charged in criminal court, only to see him get off on a technicality. But it was an even harder fight to get him fired, Sutton said. He added that true justice would be to see Servin behind bars.
“I’m happy that they recommended that they fire him. I’ll be even happier if they actually did their jobs and had him in jail just like the rest of the criminals,” he said.
“It sucks in a way,” he said. “I do not like the way this system is. It wasn’t designed for the people. It was designed to protect the police officers just in case they get into trouble. And that is exactly what’s it’s been doing.”
While the wait is not over for Sutton and his family, it has begun for the city as it prepares for the release of a graphic video tape showing the shooting death of McDonald.
McDonald was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, in Archer Heights, after McDonald allegedly refused to drop a four-inch knife. Last week a Cook County judge ordered the release of a video showing the fatal shooting.
The judge set a deadline of November 25 to release the video. But the teen’s mother, according to news reports, does not want the video released because she fears its graphic nature could spark a riot in Chicago like that in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.
Ferguson erupted in protests, then fiery riots, as demonstrators clashed with police after a grand jury refused to indict the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown. The video’s release and the pending indictment of Van Dyke comes on the anniversary of the Ferguson riots.
In preparation of the video’s release, Mayor Rahm Emanuel convened a meeting Monday with community leaders and activists to ask for calm as the deadline approaches. But several organizations that have been at the forefront calling for justice for Boyd and others victimized by police rebuffed the mayor’s invitation.
Instead in a press statement, they decried the mayor’s effort to control “black people’s response to the execution” of McDonald. Members of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), Assata’s Daughters, We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter: Chicago among others “believe that the community has a right to respond as it sees fit,” the statement said.
“We have no faith that the same Mayor that allowed people to starve for 34 days over a school, will be accountable to black people just because we respond calmly to a documented hate crime committed by a Chicago police officer,” the statement said. “We also believe that leaders do not reserve the right to police people’s emotions. Our responsibility is to organize public energy into impact.”
This report was published in collaboration with the Chicago Reader.