(Rekia Boyd Memorial 15th and Albany; Ricky Bradley Memorial 15th and Kostner)
In one week in Chicago we had five officers in six shootings, two of them deadly. Both victims were discovered to be unarmed and both cases seem to have been covered up by the city. Their names were Ricky Bradley and Rekia Boyd, both killed by the Chicago Police Department with bullets to the head.
I was warming up Ricky Bradley to be the next Todd’s People. Kostner Avenue on Chicago’s West Side has been vital for Todd’s People—it’s where I found Pam and Lazy. The area is called K-Town, as most of the streets begin with a “K”; it was also home to Chicago rappers Twista and Da Brat. I really only knew Ricky in passing and learned of him through Pam. I would say hello as he hurriedly walked by, staring at the sun for about three years straight. Singing and scrapping for metal, always on the go with cars honking their horns to say hello… Ricky would always say hello back. There was a glowing aura about him that I wanted to capture. Taking advice from a friend, I was “hanging out without my camera.” This proved to be bad advice. Ricky is gone.
On Sunday, March 25th, Ricky allegedly found police surveillance equipment in an abandoned building while he was scrapping. That equipment was being used to watch the local drug trade. Ricky took it and walked around all day with it in a black bag, according to a Fox News interview with Bernadine Gilty, Ricky's Sister. That same night, hours before Ricky was murdered, neighbors told me he was roller skating down Kostner. In fact, a lot of his friends skated with Ricky pretty often. He was a sportsman, a former teacher who caught a bad wave on drugs and ended up homeless.
How did Ricky Bradley end up behind a building at 15th and Kostner with two bullets in his head and six in his body? The story of Ricky’s ending brings up more questions than answers.
The police say Ricky had a gun while in their custody, that he reached for it when being searched. Everyone in the area knew that if Ricky had a gun he would exchange it for drugs. He wasn’t in the business of sticking people up. He washed cars and collected metal. He was higher than high. Some would even say happy.
Family and friends say there are two crime scenes in this case: One, that the official police story of Ricky being killed behind an abandoned building is false; and two, that allegedly police shot him in his home, an abandoned house which was across the alley where his body was found. Outraged, about 200 people in the neighborhood broke into the house where Ricky stayed, where they found blood remains, and we all believe it is Ricky’s. There is blood is on the stairs outside and in a room upstairs. Police refuse to answer to this discovery. It is not confirmed that this is Ricky’s blood, but the community is outraged and went here as a focal point of their demonstration on Sunday, April 1st.
This is where family and friends say Ricky’s last night began. Family and friends claim that this unarmed man was killed here, or close to it, likely because of the surveillance equipment friends claim he confiscated from the cops. (Did he possibly sell it with evidence on it, I wonder?) Then his killers—the police—may have brought his body across the street, where they planted a gun on him.
Nation of Islam in front of the house family and friends say Ricky was murdered.
Alex, Ricky Bradley’s Brother
Walking through Lawndale, Ricky’s brother Alex looks to me and says, “This isn’t gonna happen overnight.” He was talking about justice. As we passed abandoned house after abandoned house, memorial after memorial, I started to feel swallowed. There is a high mortality rate on this street that is evident in these shrines to Ricky and others. Chants rang out against empty buildings. Men were leaving their corners to hold hands as the people made a circle outside the police station. Heads poked out of windows and children ran to the curb to ask what was going on.
Lawndale is an economically depressed area. Chicago Department of Public Health says that in 2000, 45.2 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. People know each other here. They talk. They knew instantly that this was an injustice and people must not forget this. So the community is taking it to their neighbors and spreading the news.
They're angered by two police homicides in one week; Ricky was the second and the first was Rekia Boyd, shot by an off-duty undercover detective Wednesday, March 21st. She died the following day. The night of her shooting a group of people had gathered by the park next to the house of Dante Servin, the officer in question. His house is seen here in the background; in the foreground we see Rekia’s mother in red and Rekia’s brother in brown with his fist up.
Residents say the officer had been annoyed with the noise around his house, escalating as the weather was getting better, and last Wednesday he approached a group of neighborhood folk in his car. As the officer rolled down his window and told the group to be quiet, a man named Antonio Cross, part of the group, was on his phone. The police say this is where Antonio Cross drew his gun and approached the detective. The detective shot at Antonio Cross’s face, hitting him in the hand as Antonio shielded himself. One bullet hit Rekia Boyd, Antonio’s girlfriend, in the head. The police will not confirm how many shots were fired but Antonio Cross says at least ten rounds were collected at the scene. ABC News has some footage to prove it. This is where the police justify the shooting and the alleged cover-up begins.
Antonio Cross outside the house of the Chicago police who shot him
This is Antonio Cross. He is the one police said had the gun, though no gun or weapon was found at the scene. Antonio was charged with misdemeanor aggravated assault. Superintendent Gary Mcarthy said to WGN news that “this uhhh shooting appears to be justified.”
Residents and witnesses say Officer Servin allegedly shot into the crowd. Antonio says the cop told him, “I thought your phone was a weapon,” to which he replied, “How the fuck do you think my phone is a weapon?” He claims the cop then told him to sit down and shut up.
Antonio, on all accounts, did not react to being shot at with violence. He talked to the officer who shot him. There was no physical retaliation--Antonio and the rest of the neighborhood knows where Officer Servin lives. All they want is peace and justice, aka for the officer to be arrested, and hopefully leave the neighborhood.
These are still shots from ABC News coverage of Rekia Boyd. Here you see 7 visible evidence markers, most likely marking bullet casings.
Here, at least 4 more markers.
Mike Shields, President of the Fraternal Order of Police Union commented to Fox News on the recent shootings: “I think there’s two factors here. One is here that gangbangers on the street no longer think twice about pointing a gun at Chicago Police and two, they know that the Chicago Police Department is outmanned and understaffed.”
Please take note, Mike Shields: Two of the dead people the police killed this week were not gang members. Also, in the last year, police have solved only 30 percent of murders—meaning two-thirds of all homicides go unresolved. Twenty years ago, this “murder clearance rate,” as it’s called, was between 72 and 80 percent.
We marched through the hood last week with a huge megaphone, a landscaper’s trailer, and some banners. If there were porches full of gang members we stopped and told them the stories of Rekia and Ricky.
To our surprise, everyone seemed to be in support, even the thugs. In fact, it usually went like this.
Thugs: Is this some fuck the police bullshit?
Thugs: Fuck right! Look behind you, there’s those ratchety ass mutha fuckas right now! Fuck you need pigs!
It’s not hard to find evidence of abuse by the police in this city. In Chicago, on every block, you can get drugs, condos, and a good story. Here, a young man shows me a bullet wound he claims he obtained via a police shooting. I cannot verify a story like this, but the evidence of bullets is everywhere: R.I.P. graffiti, cars abandoned with bullet holes, liquor bottle piled in circles around light posts. Death is waiting here, hanging out with everyone else.