Austin community leader and anti-violence activist the Rev. Ira Acree is speaking out concerning the recent $8.5 million settlement awarded to the family of police shooting victim on the West Side.
Aaron Harrison was shot by police in the North Lawndale neighborhood in 2007. Police at the time said Harrison, 18, pointed a gun at officers, who then returned fire. Harrison died from a gunshot wound. The shooting was disputed, with Harrison's family saying he never had a gun.
Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin, was among the community leaders demanding an investigation into Harrison's death.
At the time, the Chicago police department's Office of Professional Standards was charged with investigating the matter, but the office was later disbanded due to concerns about how police misconduct allegations were being handled.
The Independent Police Review Authority was formed by the city and took over the Harrison investigation. Acree called that decision an "imperfect compromise." The review board, he says, isn't staffed with retired police officers, teachers, pastors and community members like he would prefer, but rather "handpicked city bureaucrats."
That fact, Acree insists, is why the board still found Harrison's shooting justified.
"It's a slap in the face for them since a jury disagreed," Acree said of the Aug. 16 verdict in favor of the family. "The court's decision will not bring Aaron back to his family, or recompense the torture, pain and agony they have faced. But at least the family can be confident in knowing they are getting some sort of justice."
Acree spoke to Harrison's family shortly after the verdict came down. "Community members need to know what happened because they fought and stood by this family," he said.