There is no statute of limitations on murder. Just because Anita Alvarez wouldn’t prosecute my son’s killer didn’t mean that I was about to give up.
In December 2015, Alvarez had a press conference, showing these gritty images of my son running into Washington Park, right before he was murdered, and said she wasn’t going to press charges against the cop who jumped out of his car shooting at him, George Hernandez. It broke me.
I was not going to ever give up the fight.
Then we had a private investigator look at the images and call them false images. He had been following the story. A lot of people started reaching out to me about the situation.
I was meeting with so many organizations: Black Youth Project 100, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and others, too. I remember sitting with CAARPR organizer Frank Chapman, listening, saying, “This is where I want to be at.” They were down for the movement. I started talking to them, and a lot of other people came out, too. We marched up King Drive, we marched to the police station. We spread the word: “Y’all can’t keep doing this.” Ever since then it’s been nothing but fight.
There had been a huge march on Black Friday, a few days after they released the tape of Laquan’s McDonald’s murder. They boycotted and shut down all the stores on Magnificent Mile. That was right before the press conference where they announced my son’s murder didn’t need to go to trial. There were just about daily protests for a few weeks. It was hard to keep going. But I couldn’t let it get the best of me.
I kept thinking about the lies they told: Pat Camden, FOP spokesman at the time, said RonnieMan had pointed a gun at the officers. I guess the dash cam video he has seen that nobody else has ever seen must still be held somewhere. They didn’t bring that out to the press conference, so obviously it doesn’t exist. But when is Pat Camden coming back in front of the news to say he made that up? They never have to apologize for their lies.
And they stated that night at the scene that he was still alive. That was a bald-faced lie. They just say what they always say. They said Adam Toledo, the thirteen-year-old child they recently gunned down in Little Village, pointed a gun at the officer. The body cam video of that little boy raising his empty hands up has been everywhere, all over social media. It opened old wounds back up. That’s the same situation my son was in.
Throughout that winter of 2016 they started the Bye, Anita Campaign. I was calling her out. I said I wasn’t gonna be intimidated by her, and she wasn’t getting reelected. And she didn’t. So that made me fight harder.
We dropped banners over the expressway. It had a big effect. People driving down Lakeshore Drive took pictures they kept sending me, like they couldn’t believe they were seeing all these names lifted up: Justice for Rekia Boyd, Justice for Laquan McDonald, Justice for RonnieMan, Justice for Roshad McIntosh. I think that was very brave. That was awesome. Now we need to do another one. We need a Bye, Lori Lightfoot campaign.
In the spring things started heating up in the Fire Dante Servin fight. That had started right after the state’s attorney’s office failed to convict Servin for the murder of Rekia Boyd in April 2015. Activists had filled police board hearings, even got police superintendent Garry McCarthy to recommend the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) fire him, and they were sitting in at City Hall.
Rekia’s brother Martinez Sutton was one of the family members of loved ones killed by police who was there when I met with the new State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx. A whole lot of us met with her in her office: Roshad McIntosh’s mom Cynthia Lane, and Pierre Loury’s aunt Arewa Karen Winters, and others. She said she’d look into the cases Anita Alvarez had left behind. There were so many cases you never even heard about.
She told a whole lot of us sitting in her office that she was going to look at the cases, but she lied. That’s just what they do to get in office. Then they get in office, it’s like, “To Hell with y’all, I’m here now.” She didn’t do her job either, so she needs to go, too.
I watched what happened to Flint Farmer’s family. Chicago cop Gildardo Sierra shot Flint seven times, including three times in the back while he was laying on the ground. It was such an ugly case that even IPRA said it wasn’t justified. The cop who murdered Flint Farmer had also murdered Darius Pinex just a few months prior. So, Flint’s dad Emmett filed a petition to get a special prosecutor appointed. Kim said, again, she’d look into it.
The press even said Kim Foxx favored appointing special prosecutors for police murders since the State’s Attorney works so closely with police they obviously have a conflict of interest. But then she turns around and objects. She made a written statement that she didn’t think Sierra should face charges, and she filed that with the court.
Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. denied their petition for a special prosecutor. He said that if Anita Alvarez didn’t think a jury should look at the evidence of the case, Kim Foxx didn’t think a jury should look at the evidence of the case, and the FBI had come out and said they didn’t think a jury should look at the evidence of the case, then he didn’t think he should look at it, either. How you can sit there and just back up these “authorities” you know always let cops off the hook for killing our kids I will never understand. But I guess that’s how you get to be a judge.
So we made up our own petition, did all the work for Kim Foxx, and sent it to her, to be signed jointly by me and by her. We laid out point-by-point:
- Ronald Johnson had his back to the officer when the officer opened fire.
- Other officers on the scene did not have their guns drawn. They didn’t see someone running away from them as a threat.
- The city never did anything to correct known false information they stated about the case. That’s about Pat Camden saying RonnieMan pointed a gun at George Hernandez, which the dashcam footage clearly shows is false.
- Witnesses say the cops told them to say they heard a gun cocked in the back seat of that car where RonnieMan was sitting that night. They have come forward to give depositions that was all lies the cops made them say.
- Alvarez relied on images that had been “enhanced” unreliably to try and make it look like there could be an object in his hand when he was shot.
- There were other eyewitnesses that saw the murder and knew that my son didn’t have any gun or point any gun. We even had a video from one young lady who there, saying, “They just shot him for no reason,” and “They over there sneakin,’” when she saw them put that gun next to my son.
- Officer Hernandez claimed to take a gun out of my son’s hand and put it in the back of his waist, which was not police procedure. The gun they said they took from him didn’t have his fingerprints on it.
- Alvarez based her whole decision on “careful review” of IPRA’s investigation, but she had every chance to see how crooked IPRA was.
IPRA existed for eight years. In that time, 400 people got shot by CPD. IPRA had already sat there while Laquan’s killer Jason Van Dyke he racked up twenty misconduct complaints. They didn’t even give him a slap on the wrist. They didn’t do a thing to even investigate the other cops who covered up what Van Dyke did until after the video finally came out.
As a matter of fact, Alvarez and IPRA had thousands of people out in the streets calling them out. They sat on that tape for over a year, and it had been out for less than a week when she made her little announcement about my son. They had fired IPRA head Scott Ando to pin the blame for the cover-up on him. There is no way Alvarez didn’t know IPRA was shady as hell. She just didn’t want another example of police murder going to trial because she represented and defended the whole system that’s based on the police doing what they do.
IPRA just did whatever Rahm Emanuel told them to do. And that was not to release them videos. When the footage of the killing of Laquan finally did come out, the media asked Rahm if there were any more videos they should know about. He said no. Right after that, my son’s video came out. They just wanted to brush my son’s murder under the rug.
So we wrote all that up in my petition. Guess what we got back from Kim Foxx’s office? Nothing.
We waited and kept working, kept organizing. In 2017, the Department of Justice came in, and they found a lot of wrongdoing by Chicago police. They wrote a 164-page report. But still no justice on any of it.
Eventually, in the winter of 2019, I got my own lawyer and filed the petition on my own. We went to courtroom 101 of the Criminal Court at 26th and California. It’s a cattle call of people coming in there in the mornings. You sit on hard, wooden benches behind a dingy wall of bullet-proof glass with the judge way off on the other side. He calls up people’s names, and if you’re late they send out a warrant for your arrest. They’re processing people’s cases through in a couple seconds each. I sat there feeling claustrophobic, waiting through half an hour of the judge dealing with every other case on the docket before he called me up with my lawyer, Jeanette Samuels.
The judge was the same LeRoy Martin Jr. who denied a special prosecutor for the killer of Darius Pinex and Flint Farmer. He started out arguing with Jeanette back and forth and then said he needed to continue the case, he needed time to read it and go over it. I felt like he wasn’t going to do his job. Dante Servin was coming into that same courtroom to try and get his record sealed.
Ms. Samuels did her part. She stated how Kim Foxx was the only new face in the State’s Attorney’s office. The rest of the good old boys in there were the same ones under Alvarez not prosecuting police. So the court needed to appoint a special prosecutor who could look at the case independently.
Then we come back and he said if they assign these cases to a special prosecutor, that takes money out of the state’s attorney’s pockets. He came right out and said he wouldn’t stick his neck out going against the state’s attorney. The evidence was right there in his face. What do y’all need? Magnifying glasses?
The state Supreme Court appointed that judge to the Appellate Court. The State Bar Association said he would bring “an understanding of the current dynamics in the criminal justice system to the Appellate Court.” What he understands is how to uphold what the system is already doing, which doesn’t have a thing to do with bringing criminals to any type of justice.