Activists see fruits of their labor in Rekia Boyd case

It has been more than a year and a half since 22-year-old Rekia Boyd was shot in the head in Douglas Park the morning of March 21, 2012. On Monday, the state’s attorney’s office charged Dante Servin, the off-duty Chicago police officer accused of shooting and killing Boyd, who was unarmed, with involuntary manslaughter, discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct.

Filing criminal charges against a police officer accused of a shooting is rare. In fact, they are so rare that the Chicago Tribune reported yesterday there hasn’t been another police officer criminally charged since 1997

Police accountability activists who have marched, picketed and petitioned since Boyd’s shooting death say in light of so few criminal prosecutions of officers, even getting a charge is a victory.

And that charge wouldn’t have come without the activism around this particular case.

“Unless you holler and scream and cry, they are not going to show any emotion,” said Crista Noel, an organizer with Women’s All Points Bulletin, which seeks to help women assaulted by police. “I believe this happened because we protested it and continued to protest it.”

Servin shot Boyd near his West Side house following an altercation between Servin and a group of individuals in Douglas Park. According to Antonio Cross, a witness who was also injured at the scene, Servin opened fire from his car. Boyd was shot in the head and died 24 hours later.

The case took a twist from there. Cross, who was shot in the hand, soon after was charged with aggravated assault. According to court documents, Servin thought Cross was taking out a gun when he fired the bullets that would kill Boyd. But Cross only had a cell phone.

The case against Cross eventually was dismissed. But, said Noel, it’s typical for the narrative around police shootings to hinge on an individual having something in their hand that could have been a gun.

In Boyd’s case, however, the fact that she was unarmed made “this … a cut and dried case,” Noel said.

In 2012, the year Boyd was killed, 50 officer-involved shootings occurred in which someone was hit, according to quarterly reports released by the Independent Police Review Authority.

Meanwhile, in 2012, IPRA forwarded 63 incidents to the state’s attorney’s office to consider criminal charges. As of today, Servin’s case was the only one in which an officer had been publicly charged. 

Servin will have a court date Dec. 16, according to the state’s attorneys office.
 
Noel said other police shooting cases have merited the same attention as Boyd’s. But those cases didn’t get traction because of the emotional difficulty of sustaining these kinds of campaigns.

Boyd’s family helped keep the case alive, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city that was settled this year.

“A lot of families just don’t keep going,” she said. “The toll of the incident is one thing, but then you have to have a lot of strength and courage to stay in the fray. It wore Martinez Sutton [Boyd’s brother] out, but he kept going.”

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