The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., scholars and the lawyer who represented Rekia Boyd’s family in a civil suit expressed surprise this week that a white off-duty Chicago police officer has been charged in the shooting death of the unarmed black woman.
“The fact that the officer in this case was charged is an exception to the rule,” Jackson told The Root.
No one expected charges in Boyd’s case, given the city’s history of police misconduct, Melvin L. Brooks, the family’s attorney, also told The Root.
“I did not think it would happen because there was a concerted effort to direct attention away from this officer and put the focus on Antonio Cross, who was with Rekia Boyd,” Brooks said. “Cross was charged with aggravated assault as a result of this incident, and the charges were later dropped after a lengthy investigation in which the officer charged with Rekia Boyd’s shooting was the complainant.”
Indeed, nearly a year and a half after Boyd’s shooting and after a settlement payment, Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin on Monday was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless misconduct in the March 21, 2012, shooting death of Boyd on the city’s West Side, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The accused officer had told investigators that he saw Cross remove a gun from his waistband and point it at him as he approached Servin’s car, the Tribune reports. At that point, Servin reportedly grabbed his own gun and fired five rounds over his left shoulder out the window. Three people with Cross, including Boyd, had their backs to Servin, prosecutors said. It turns out that Cross was not holding a gun; he was holding a cellphone.
“It’s a sad day when charges are warranted against a police officer, but we feel very strongly that in this particular case Ms. Rekia Boyd lost her life for no reason,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters after the bond hearing, according to the Tribune. “[Boyd] was doing nothing and was shot in the back of the head. And in evaluating all the facts that I saw, I felt that his actions were not appropriate, not justified and were reckless.”
The case is important on the local and national landscape because it could help instill trust in the justice system in largely minority communities, where law enforcement needs assistance to tackle outsize crime.
“While it’s a small step, we hope that more people will begin to trust the police to help put a dent in solving crime,” said the Rev. Jackson.