CHICAGO – A verbal dispute on an unseasonably hot March night led to the shooting death of a 22-year-old woman by an off-duty Chicago police officer. In the six weeks since the shooting, the family of Rekia Boyd has found very few answers and very little in the way of justice.
“Nobody wanted us to say anything about it. People said it was not wise to talk to the media,” Boyd’s brother Martinez Sutton told the Chicago Sun-Times on April 30. “But every hour there was a report about a 22-year-old girl that got shot in the head,” Sutton said. “I wanted people to know her name and that she wasn’t just any old girl out there.”
The night of March 20 was a surprisingly warm one. Temperatures that day topped out at nearly 90 degrees, and people were out in full force in the streets, enjoying the summer-like weather.
Boyd was out with a group of friends at Douglas Park on 15th and Albany, on Chicago’s west side, when off-duty Chicago detective Dante Servin drove up to them in a BMW. Sutton told the Sun-Times that Servin — who lives in the North Lawndale neighborhood near the park — told the group to “shut up all that motherf**king noise.”
Boyd’s friend, 39-year-old Antonio Cross, responded with an obscenity toward Servin. At that point, witnesses say that Servin pulled out a gun and opened fire on the group, hitting Cross in the left hand and Boyd — an innocent bystander — in the head.
Chicago Police initially claimed that Cross pulled a gun on Servin, which caused the officer to open fire in “fear for his life.” An independent investigation found that Cross was unarmed, yet he was still charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Sutton said during an April 6th press conference, “I saw a news story about a 22-year-old woman who had been shot in the head. I was like, I feel sorry for that family. I come to find out, we were the family.”
Rekia Boyd died two days after being removed from life support. Servin has yet to be charged with a crime in the shooting and Boyd’s family has already filed a civil suit against Servin and the city of Chicago.
“Rekia Boyd was shot and killed on March 21, 2012, without any legal justification,” said James Montgomery, the family’s attorney on April 6. “Her young life was snuffed out by an aggressive, intimidating police officer who provoked the confrontation and when met with a verbal rejoinder took the life of an innocent young woman. The police spokesperson publicly claimed that the officer fired in defense of his life when a man approached his vehicle and pointed a gun at him. Incidentally, no gun was ever found.”
Darian Boyd, Rekia’s older brother, told the Huffington Post that Servin had made comments prior to the shooting demanding some “respect” from the community.
“He basically said, ‘What do I have to do to get some peace, quiet and respect? Shoot someone?’” Darian Boyd said. Darian Boyd added that several witnesses thought that Servin appeared to be intoxicated when the shooting occurred.
Boyd and Sutton started a website and petition hoping to find justice for their sister. Servin is still on duty with Chicago police as the investigation continues and the police have not commented on his status or the lawsuit against the department.
The killing comes in the midst of what has already been an extremely violent year in the Windy City. Since Jan. 1, Chicago has already logged over 150 homicides as of May 2, with 40 of them coming in April alone.
The Chicago police are also facing the backlash over Howard Morgan being sentenced to 40 years in prison for the attempted murder of four white Chicago police officers. On Feb. 21, 2005, Morgan — an off-duty detective for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — was shot 28 times by Chicago police during a traffic stop gone wrong.
Morgan survived and his family maintains his innocence, insisting that the police are lying about the shooting. Boyd’s family, like Morgan’s, insists that they simply want justice for Rekia, and feels that the department is stonewalling the process.
“Right now we are just waiting for an answer,” Sutton told the Sun-Times. “Everybody has told me that it’s under investigation. We are just playing a waiting game.”
Follow Jay Scott Smith on Twitter at @JayScottSmith