There’s a growing chorus of community discontent over Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s statements in the aftermath of 7-year-old Amari Brown’s July 4 murder, with some activists and residents even calling for the top cop’s ouster.
Brown was shot in the chest while enjoying the Fourth of July with his family in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Police say the bullet was meant for the boy’s father, Antonio Brown, who they say is a ranking gang member. Brown also has an extensive arrest record.
After an arrest in April for gun and theft charges, Brown posted $5,000 bail and was free the next day, Cook County court records show. During a July 5 press conference, Supt. McCarthy said if “Brown is in custody, his son is alive.”
McCarthy also expressed frustration with the fact that Brown hadn’t been cooperative with the department’s investigation of his son’s murder.
“Forty-five times we’ve put him in handcuffs, to what end?” McCarthy said. “And by the way, why do you think he’s not cooperating with us? What do you think he’s going to do about this incident?”
But relatives of Brown, West Side residents, activists and even an alderman have vigorously pushed back against McCarthy’s statements, calling them insensitive and ill-timed.
“What the community is saying and our people are saying is what we really don’t like is the fact that he said the baby wouldn’t have been dead if the young man had been in jail,” said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) during a July 9 vigil for Amari Brown that was held outside of his Humboldt Park home.
“That’s not something that our people feel [McCarthy] knows given the fact he doesn’t have anybody in custody. We take offense that he used one situation to justify another,” she said.
Well known anti-violence advocate Tio Hardiman called for McCarthy’s ouster and that he be replaced by someone “who understands our people” — an explicit declaration that got a rousing applause from the more than 100 people who attended the vigil.
“Supt. McCarthy needs to be fired,” Hardiman said in front of a bevy of television news mics. “He’s been there for over four years and he has not solved anything. We need a young, African American superintendent who understands our people — both Hispanic and African American.”
South Side activist and pastor Jedidiah Brown echoed Hardiman’s frustration.
“To our superintendent, you’re going on a listening tour around the City of Chicago, so I need you to listen to this. You’ve lost my confidence and you’ve lost my trust and I speak on behalf of young people in the streets, because your comment’s timing was insensitive and uncalled for … The community is standing with the Brown family. [You should] apologize and resign.
“We’ve got to stand behind this father and we’ve got to be with him through the process of grieving with this child,” he said, before turning to address Antonio Brown, who was standing behind him, directly. “We’ve got your back and every label that was put on your back, the community takes it off.”
“I want them to stop criticizing that daddy!” yelled Tiffany Hardmon during a July 6 peach march in Humboldt Park.
“Stop criticizing him! He didn’t ask for no coward to come take his baby life! And if he feels like I feel like, he would’ve jumped in front of that bullet! Stop criticizing him and stand behind him!” said Hardmon, whose daughter, Ashley Hardmon, 19, was killed in Austin in 2013.
Phillip Daniels, 44, who lives just blocks away from the Brown family in Humboldt Park, said that he’s friends with the father.
“That’s my man. I know him well. He’s a good guy. I haven’t been watching all that [mess] on the news. That man cool with me. He’s a good cat.”
Iggy Flow, 26, who was at Thursday’s vigil, said he was outraged by McCarthy’s comments and doesn’t approve of his job performance.
“What he said was completely crazy,” Flow said. “He needs to be fired ASAP. There are a lot of people who have been destroyed by the police and we have not received any justice.”
Natasha Smith, 26, was Amari Brown’s cousin. She was walking briskly during Monday’s peace march with Kemone Williams, 23. Smith said she has also lost a child, albeit not to gun violence.
“I feel that no one’s background has anything to do with a person’s involvement with their child. Boo Boo loved his kids. It’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his kids. He would not put his kids in harm’s way. His background has nothing to do with how he raised his kids, period! The media can bash anybody,” Smith said furiously.
“For you to get on the news and slander somebody like that at this time — when his son is dead? You’re wrong,” said Williams.
“That’s sad,” Smith said. “A black man cannot grieve in peace. He has every right to grieve.”
When asked whether or not she thinks McCarthy should resign, Ald. Mitts switched focus, noting that she was more concerned with the police finding Brown’s killer.
“As an elected official, I can’t say that and I will not say that,” she said. “I need the police to support me in other instances. But if this is how they feel, the community can say what they feel. Sometimes we say things that are inappropriate. But what I want the superintendent to do is go out and find who killed that baby. We want justice for Amari, because that’s the least we can do.”