A Chicago police officer is seeking the media’s help to unravel what he says is a web of deception, created by the Chicago Police Department (CPD), which led to the indictment and subsequent conviction of seven police officers in the 15th Police District on the city’s West Side 15 years ago.
T.C. McCoy, an officer in the 15th District, held a news conference Wednesday outside police headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., decrying a “conspiracy by the Chicago Police Department” to frame these seven police officers, known as the “Austin 7” in what he calls a flawed police corruption investigation.
McCoy contends there are several discrepancies in the police and FBI’s initial investigation, stemming from a Dec. 8, 1996 videotape, shot by the CPD, which McCoy alleges shows a staged robbery of an undercover female FBI agent posing as a drug dealer’s girlfriend. McCoy contends the arrest of the Austin 7 stems from that tape.
“They put all seven names on the indictment,” McCoy said “When you are spending the kind of money they were spending, you had to come up with something. You just couldn’t come up with some type of bullcrap. You couldn’t make it all civilians.”
McCoy said he has approached the police department about the tape, but the department has refused to investigate it further.
Pat Hill, a retired police officer and member of the African-American Police League, has followed McCoy’s investigation for 15 years. She contends there are a lot of unanswered questions about this investigation. Hill said neither she nor McCoy have gotten cooperation from the local authorities in this matter and hopes media attention about the videotape will change that.
“We’ve all done the work, so now we are asking for your assistance as that other arm of the constitution to seek justice for all of us,” she said.
In December 1996, seven police officers from the 15th District’s tactical unit were arrested for allegedly shaking down undercover FBI agents posing as drug dealers between 1995-1996. The undercover investigation became known as Operation Broken Star. The FBI alleged that the officers conspired to rob and extort $65,000 from undercover FBI agents.
The officers arrested in the case were Edward Lee Jackson Jr., Gregory S. Crittleton, M.L. Moore, Alex Ramos, Lennon Shields, Cornelius Tripp, and James Young. Also a civilian, Charles Vaughn, was arrested. Three of the former officers – Jackson, Ramos and Moore – are still in jail, serving a combined 249 years in prison. McCoy held the news conference on the date, Dec. 20, when the officers were arrested 15 years ago.
McCoy contends CPD wanted to investigate him and his now-deceased partner, Jerry Saffold for allegedly robbing drug dealers of between $100 and $200. McCoy contends he and his partner were allegedly targeted by CPD’s Corrupt Practice Unit for doing their jobs – ridding Austin’s streets of dugs.
McCoy said that when the unit found no evidence of wrongdoing, an officer by the name of Michael W. Hoke allegedly arranged to set up a staged drug robbery to implicate McCoy as well as Jackson and Shields.
Hoke was former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge’s partner in the early ’70s and has been implicated in police torture of suspects at Area 2 Police District headquarters. Hoke was granted immunity from prosecution in the ongoing Burge trial by special prosecutor Edward Egan, according to an article in the Chicago Reader. Last year, Burge was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors in the police torture case.
McCoy contends that the videotape shows an individual posing as him robbing the female FBI agent. McCoy said that individual was Vaughn who unknowingly posed as McCoy and was offered money for his part in the staged robbery. McCoy said he was on vacation in the Chicago area when the staged robbery took place.
“There was never no officers from the Austin community in this,” he said. “If you look at the evidence in its totality … there is nothing that is compelling that would have you arrest these officers.”
He said the officers were arrested and convicted on “bogus reports” and “lies,” allegedly offered by Hoke.
Subsequently McCoy invited the media to Wallace Catfish Restaurant, 2800 W. Madison Ave., to watch the video of the staged robbery. McCoy gave a play-by-play of the tape.
McCoy is taking his fight directly to the “lion’s den” and challenged the department to fire him “if I am saying something wrong.”
During the news conference, McCoy was flanked by several Austin residents, plain-clothes Chicago police officers and a brother of one of the Austin 7. William Berry, 41, is the brother of Cornelius Tripp, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison and is out on parole.
This ordeal, Berry said, has taken a toll on his brother. He said his brother didn’t want to plead guilty but was pressured to do so by his lawyer.
“He is stressing a lot because he was framed, and he is still going through emotional problems with that. He has a lot of hatred built up from the police department,” Berry said.
The Chicago Police Department has not yet responded to a request for comment on McCoy’s claims.