Family members and individuals who have alleged cases of police brutality and misconduct were invited to give their testimony, Sept. 12, as Cong. Danny K. Davis (D-7th) hosted a community forum on police relations. Hundreds of residents attended the forum as did many community leaders and elected officials.
It was an emotional evening for many family members who spoke to the large crowd. First to testify was Joiel Goodwin, sister of victim Johnny Goodwin (killed Aug. 22). “My little brother was 21 years old,” she said, “and he was on his way to a friends house and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was shot in the back by a police officer. It is so hard for me-Johnny was my babysitter and on his autopsy report it states he was shot in the back. He was not a person who was a gangbanger. I worry about my mother. We have not gotten a police report to know who shot him or why.”
Panelist and state Sen. Ricky Hendon asked the sister if the family had retained legal counsel and to please keep him informed. Johnny’s mother, Janet Goodwin, spoke after her daughter, saying she did not want any other mother to go through what she was going through. “My plea is anyone with information to come forward,” she said. “This police brutality is terrible and has to stop.”
Activist Ashunda Harris, the aunt of recent West Side shooting victim Aaron Harrison, asked Ms. Goodwin if the police from the 6th Dist. had reached out to her, and if the neighborhood felt intimidated. Goodwin replied that the young men are fearful around the area of 81st & Halsted, the area where Goodwin was shot.
Harris then gave testimony regarding death of Aaron, 18, who was shot Aug. 6 on Chicago’s West Side. “He was walking on his way to the store,” she related. “He had been at a barbecue, and they were cooking on a nice summer evening. They got their items at the store. It began to rain and they stopped under the shelter. The police came, one car jumped the curb and the other began pursuing them. They said Aaron was also one who ran, and he was pursued by the officer. The officer was tired by multiple accounts from people in the neighborhood at the time. They said number one, Aaron did not have a gun; number 2, the officer just was tired because Aaron was an excellent runner, and he was making a mockery out of the officer and out of frustration and anger, he murdered him. He shot him in his back and executed him. If we as civilians had done this, they would say it was a heinous crime. That is the way we feel-it was a heinous crime and the policeman should be convicted and sent to jail. I thank Cong. Davis for stepping up because a lot of these people in positions are cowards. They are hiding and shaking hands, getting contracts and grants, all these programs for their churches and for their community, and they are not doing what they should do for the community.”
Panelist Rev. Paul Jakes asked if there were any witnesses who were arrested. Ms. Harris said five individuals were arrested. “We went to court last week for six individuals. Every day after the shooting, the police were coming over, intimidating young men. They were coming at midnight knocking on people’s doors,” she said.
Next was Laverne Teague, sister of victim Lester Spruill, who died in July while in custody. “My brother was 42 years old and a member of the North Lawndale community. We were notified July 21st that my brother died in police custody on July 19th. We were told that my brother walked into the apartment on Sacramento Boulevard and the police came in behind him and he was brought out unconscious, not handcuffed but unresponsive. When we asked the police what happened, they came to his home with a picture of a dead Lester Spruill, asking us to identify him. We had no answer and went to the police station at Harrison & Kedzie. My whole family was there, and they wanted to push us back because they said it is too many. They showed us the picture, but we wanted to know what had happened. They had already done the autopsy, and when we got the body, it was covered in bruises. There were bruises on the neck, behind the neck, arms and chest. When asked what happened, [the police] said they found him dead in the cell.”
Panelist Pat Hill said she had been Spruill’s teacher when she was a school teacher, prior to becoming a Chicago police officer. Hill told his sister she was sorry to hear about his death. In a short speech to the audience, Hill pointed out that the system has to be attacked and her question was, “How many more black people got to die before we do this? There are provisions that we’re not using-we cannot successfully solve this problem until we understand what and who we are dealing with.”
Sen. Hendon concurred, “We better act on this now because police are whipping on white folks. They took brutality to a whole new level. All you got to do is watch the news-they’re beating up little white women now. Secondly, the only thing Mayor Daley understands is economic pressure. We have to make it very clear that there won’t be no Olympics in Chicago with black folks being brutalized.”
Others who spoke about alleged victims were Michelle Martin, girlfriend of Jon Burge victim Stanley Howard; JoAnn Badley; Stephanie Montgomery, whose mother (Francine Hancock-Bryant) was beaten by police; and Pastor Oscar Thomas and Derrick Harris on behalf of victim Deonte Thomas, who was arrested after the Aaron Harrison shooting.