A Chicago agency’s recommendation to fire a detective who fatally shot an unarmed African-American woman stems from “public pressure,” not the evidence, his lawyer says.
Independent Police Review Authority officials arrived at the recommendation “because they’re afraid of being in the gun sights” of the woman’s family and the media, according to Darren O’Brien, an attorney for Det. Dante Servin.
The shooting took place in 2012 near the detective’s home on the city’s West Side. Servin, driving his car off duty, confronted a group walking from an outdoor party. Then, the detective said, a man in the group seemed to point a gun at him.
Servin shot several rounds over his shoulder. One hit the hand of the man, Antonio Cross. Another hit the head of a bystander named Rekia Boyd, 22, who died from the injury.
Prosecutors said Cross had no gun, just a cell phone. They charged the detective with felonies including involuntary manslaughter
During the trial this April, Cook County Judge Dennis Porter abruptly acquitted Servin of all charges. Porter announced the verdict even before the defense presented most of its witnesses. He said prosecutors had failed to prove that the detective acted recklessly and that a more fitting charge would have been murder — claims disputed by State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
The verdict sparked protests led by Boyd’s family. The detective, meanwhile, still faced administrative charges.
A Wednesday statement from IPRA Chief Administrator Scott M. Ando says his agency is recommending the dismissal based on a thorough investigation. The detective, according to the statement, violated police policies including “discharging a firearm into a crowd.”
Of some 400 civilian shootings by police that IPRA has investigated since its 2007 creation, the one that killed Boyd is only the second the agency has found to be unjustified.
O’Brien, the detective’s attorney, told WBEZ that IPRA’s recommendation was “based on erroneous conclusions.” Among them, O’Brien said, “there’s never been any evidence that [Servin] ever fired into a crowd.”
O’Brien insisted that Cross was apart from Boyd. He said the detective was shooting at him alone and feared for his life. “It’s a terrible tragedy that Rekia Boyd was killed but, essentially, Dante Servin is being fired for defending himself,” O’Brien said.
The dismissal recommendation went to police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who has 90 days to decide whether to make the same recommendation to the city’s nine-member Police Board, which would hold a trial-like public hearing before making the city’s final decision behind closed doors.
McCarthy’s decision will receive close scrutiny. After the criminal case, he said Servin should never have been charged.
A statement Wednesday from McCarthy spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, “We take the use of force by our officers, and the recommendations of IPRA, extremely seriously and we will carefully review the matter.”
Martinez Sutton, a brother of Boyd, predicts that McCarthy will oppose the dismissal recommendation. “In the family’s eyes, it seems like he said my sister’s death is a justified death,” Sutton said Thursday on WBEZ. “He’s going around, saying that — with no remorse for the family.”
The city settled a wrongful-death lawsuit with Boyd’s family for $4.5 million in 2013.