AFRICANGLOBE – For the first time in more than 15 years, a Chicago police officer was criminally charged Monday in a fatal, off-duty shooting because Cook County prosecutors said he acted recklessly, opening fire over his left shoulder from inside his car into an alley occupied by at least four people.
Chicago police Detective Dante Servin, 45, stood with his hands clasped behind his back as his attorney entered a plea of not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. Servin turned himself in to state’s attorney’s office investigators earlier in the day and later was ordered released on $75,000 bail.
Servin has said he opened fire after he saw a man point a gun at him not far from his West Side home near Douglas Park early on the morning of March 21, 2012. But the intended target had only a cellphone, authorities said, and Rekia Boyd, a woman with his group, was fatally shot in the back of the head.
“It’s a sad day when charges are warranted against a police officer, but we feel very strongly that in this particular case Ms. Rekia Boyd lost her life for no reason,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez told reporters after the bond hearing.
“(Boyd) was doing nothing and was shot in the back of the head,” Alvarez said. “And in evaluating all the facts that I saw, I felt that his actions were not appropriate, not justified and were reckless.”
The last high-profile charges against a Chicago cop for a fatal shooting came in 1995 when off-duty Officer Gregory Becker killed a homeless man during an altercation in the River North neighborhood. Prosecutors said his weapon fired as he pistol-whipped the victim. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury convicted him in 1997 of armed violence, involuntary manslaughter and official misconduct.
Servin has kept his $87,000-a-year job and been placed on desk duty since the shooting, but the department is expected to strip him of his police powers as a result of the charges.
A Fraternal Order of Police spokesman said Servin is a decorated police veteran who has served since the early 1990s and was trying to defend himself that night.
“It’s a sad day when an officer’s charged for doing something that he’s trained to do,” Pat Camden told reporters at the courthouse.
Servin faces anything from probation to five years in prison if convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the most serious charge.
The city previously paid $4.5 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Boyd’s estate.
The detective was off duty and driving home just before midnight when he allegedly heard a large and loud crowd at Douglas Park near 15th Place, Assistant State’s Attorney William Delaney said in court. At home a few minutes later, he called 911 to complain, telling the dispatcher, “I’m afraid that something bad is going to happen.”
About 1 a.m., Servin told authorities, he left his home to get a burger, carrying an unregistered, fully automatic 9 mm Glock on his right hip, prosecutors said. He saw a group of four people — including Boyd — as they walked to buy cigarettes.
Servin drove south in an alley just west of Albany Avenue toward 15th Place, approaching the mouth of the alley just as the group was coming by. Through his open driver’s side window, Servin told two men in the group that no one would call police if they stayed in the park and were quiet but that “people lived here.”
One of the men, Antonio Cross, told reporters he thought Servin was trying to buy drugs and told him to “move the (expletive) on.” Another man in the group also cursed at him, prosecutors said.
Servin pulled his car the wrong way onto 15th Place, facing east on the westbound-only street, and told investigators that as he looked over his left shoulder, he saw Cross pull a gun out of his waistband and point it at him as he approached his car.
With his car either stopped or moving slowly, Servin said he grabbed his own gun and fired five rounds over his left shoulder out the window. The other three people in the alley all had their backs to Servin, Delaney said.
Cross had been holding a cellphone the entire time but said he never approached Servin’s car.
One round hit Cross’ hand and another hit a sign post. Boyd died the next day.
Cross, a felon, was charged with assaulting a police officer, but the charge was later dropped.
“I want him to go to jail,” Cross told reporters. “Whenever I got caught … I accept it as a man. … This man’s sitting up here, he knows the truth. He knows he took the law in his own hands.”
By: Steve Schmadeke, Stacy St. Clair and Jeremy Gorner