A few years back, a regular strolled into Wallace Davis’s West Side catfish restaurant and gave him the hard sell on an $18,000 security system. At first, Davis didn’t take the bait. He had grown up in the neighborhood”still lived there, in fact”and felt so trusting that he sometimes left the doors wide open at home.
But then the salesman took a different tack: cameras might come in handy, insurance-wise, if Davis ever got sued by a disgruntled employee or opportunistic customer.
Now, Davis is calling the security cameras “the best investment I ever made in my life.” On June 28, 11th District police arrested Davis for simple battery, after they reportedly witnessed him brandishing a broom outside his restaurant, Wallace’s Catfish Corner at 2800 W. Madison, in a threatening manner. Davis says he was just trying to rescue an innocent woman at a nearby bus stop from a man with a butcher knife. In exchange for his viligence, he says, the arresting officers beat him about the head and upper body, arrested him, and held him in jail for 16 hours.
“They put me in a paddywagon, drove me to Grand, and put me in a lineup with gangbangers, like they would for a murder case,” said Davis, a prominent neighborhood businessman and former alderman who in the 1980s did time for extortion. “My face was swollen. You should’ve seen my face.”
Davis figured it was just his word against the cops, until his daughter, Tina Smith, reminded him of the security cameras that covered practically every inch of the premises. “She said, ‘Daddy, everything is on tape. There’s no doubt about it.'”
A version of the tape aired on Davis’s office computer shows a throng of police officers descending on a man in a white shirt and beating him about the head and neck in the restaurant parking lot. The man in white has his hands on top of his head. A handful of bystanders gather at some distance, while at the other end of the parking lot, another man in a white T-shirt is seen reaching for his back pocket and walking rapidly away from the scene.
“There he goes,” says Wallace, pointing at the computer screen. “That’s the robber. They’re kicking my ass, and he’s getting away.”
On the computer version of the tape, faces are too small to be identified, but Davis says he’s confident the images can be enlarged and sharpened so the whole world can clearly see the incident. A report from Bethany Hospital also states that hours after he was released from jail on June 29, Davis was treated there for a dislocated shoulder. His right arm is in a sling, and he has filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Standards of the Chicago Police Department.
“I want my day in court,” says Davis, who says as a local businessman he’s friendly to most of the cops in his 13th District neighborhood; these cops were from an adjacent district. “We need effective law enforcement. We don’t need a bunch of thugs.” He adds that most cops are doing their jobs well. It’s the aberrant ones involved in the incident who should lose their jobs. “This is a black eye that shouldn’t be placed on the entire Police Department.”
According to Chicago Police spokesman David Bayless, the OPS is investigating the incident. The police report for the incident states that an 11th District officer saw Davis chasing a citizen with a broom. The officer ordered Davis to put the broom down, and Davis reportedly said, “Fuck you, I got this.” The officer repeated the request, and Davis allegedly stated, “Fuck you, what are you going to do about it?” The report then states that the officer called for backup, took the broom from the offender, and told him to place his hands behind his back. Davis allegedly then took a swing at the officer and was taken into custody and transported to the 11th District stationhouse.
Davis tells a somewhat different version: “A lady outside came in and said a guy with a butcher knife tried to rob her while she was waiting for the bus. She went back out there, and I saw a guy walking toward her in a white T-shirt. I said, ‘What are you doing, man?’ He pulls out a butcher knife, and she says, ‘Get this so-and-so off me.’ I tell the lady, ‘Move out of the way.’ A guy sweeping on the outside, he had this broom, I snatched the broom out of his hand, to protect myself. I went after the guy, and then the tables turned. A policeman came up, and said, ‘Drop the broom.’ I said, ‘Man, are you crazy? This guy’s got a butcher knife.’ She said, ‘Wallace, drop the broom.’ I said, ‘Do you want the broom”here’s the broom, but don’t let this guy get away.’ Then squad cars came from everywhere.”
Davis says an officer told him, “Mr. Big Shot, your ass is under arrest.” In the car, he says, officers mentioned Howard Morgan, a railroad worker shot 25 times by police earlier this year after he allegedly pulled a gun on them. After Morgan’s shooting, Davis says he let neighborhood leaders hold a press conference on the matter in his restaurant.