Martinez Sutton flipped on the TV after a morning bike ride. He was drawn to breaking news about a double shooting near Chicago’s Douglas Park. One of the victims was a 22-year-old woman, the same age as his younger sister.
He dialed her cell phone and, when she didn’t pick up, left a message: “Hey, baby girl, hit me up. Let me know you’re OK, all right? Love you, bye.”
Rekia Boyd never returned the call.
About 90 minutes later, two detectives knocked on the front door of the family’s modest brick home in south suburban Dolton and handed Sutton the phone number of Mt. Sinai Hospital’s emergency room. Boyd—the born jokester, life of the party, self-described godmother to everybody’s children—was the female shooting victim in the news reports blaring from the family’s TV. She had been shot once in the back of her head.
Sutton waited a few minutes to call his mother’s cell phone, knowing she was driving in rush-hour traffic. When he reached her, he blurted out the horrific news: Rekia had been shot in the head and was hospitalized at Mt. Sinai. He would call back when he got to the hospital. Angela Helton rushed to the ER not knowing if her daughter was alive.
When Helton was allowed to approach Rekia’s bed, she could see it was hopeless.
“I just turned and walked out of the room,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “She was gone.” The next day, Helton felt compelled to visit the shooting scene—an alley near the shooter’s home. She saw her daughter’s brain tissue splattered on the ground next to her lip gloss.
The shooter was Dante Servin, an off-duty police detective. Servin fatally shot Boyd when he fired into a crowd five times over his left shoulder from inside his Mercedes sedan. Almost four years later, he still is employed by the Chicago Police Department.
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Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez is the elected official responsible for prosecuting police-misconduct cases. Alvarez came under fire for waiting almost two years to charge Servin, the first Chicago cop in almost 20 years to be prosecuted for the fatal shooting of a civilian. And when she did, a judge threw the case out, saying she’d mishandled it. More recently, Alvarez was criticized for waiting 13 months to charge the police officer who killed teenager Laquan McDonald.
These cases haunt her reelection campaign as she tries for a third term as head of the second-largest prosecutor’s office in the country.
Since the release of a dashcam video in November showing an officer pumping 16 bullets into McDonald, protests against police violence have rocked Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the police chief; the head of the agency that investigates the worst cases of police misconduct has resigned; and a federal civil-rights investigation of the Chicago PD has been launched. Activists are calling on Emanuel to resign, but a special anger is reserved for Alvarez, who alone has the power to prosecute police officers.