In a rare example of prosecutors seeking to hold a Chicago police officer accountable for a fatal shooting, Dante Servin went on trial for involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct.
On March 21, 2012, Servin, who was off-duty at the time, responded to a 911 call complaining about noise in Douglas Park from partying, fighting and smoking. Servin stopped his car in an alley by the park and confronted a twenty year-old woman, Rekia Boyd, her friend, Ikca Beamon, and two young men, Antonio Cross and Marteece. When the two young men talked back to Servin, that infuriated Servin. He slowly drove his car out of the alley, pulled out his Glock 26 9mm, reached across his body and fired his weapon at Boyd and her friends.
Servin hit Cross in his hand. One of the other bullets fired struck Boyd in the left side of her head. The bullet ricocheted inside her head, “left to right, back to front and then slightly upward,” according to her autopsy. She collapsed to the ground and died from the gunshot wound.
Beamon testified about the final moments before her friend, who had been like a sister to her, was killed.
According to Beamon, Servin shouted at them to “cut out the fucking noise.” He said something to the effect that they needed to cool it. Cross thought Servin might be wanting drugs. He told Servin, “We don’t have any drugs. Get the fuck out of here.” Marteece said, “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.”
Servin’s arm came out the window and he shot at them. Beamon heard sirens. Cross left the scene but returned when police arrived.
“I see her lying down in the alley,” Beamon recalled, while trying to maintain her composure . “When I went to her, it was like she wasn’t breathing.” Her body was swollen. She had a “hole in her head the size of a quarter. I see her brains coming out of her head.”
Servin requested a bench trial instead of a jury trial. Judge Dennis Porter will ultimately decide whether Servin is guilty of all or any of the three charges.
During opening argument, the defense asserted that Servin fired weapons because he believed he was under attack. His defense claims Cross reached into his waistband and charged Servin.
Servin “wasn’t looking for trouble. He was trying to stop trouble from happening.” According to his defense, he heard people arguing loudly. He asked them to keep it down. He was told, “Fuck you,” and kept driving. Cross reached into his waistband and then allegedly pulled out an object that he pointed toward Servin’s car. And, because Servin now believed his life was in danger, he fired his weapon.
The defense added that this object was a cellphone Cross pulled out and used to “scare” Servin.
When Beamon was on the stand, the defense desperately tried to make it seem like it was possible Cross had posed a threat to Servin and Beamon recognized this.
Beamon was upset with Cross and Marteece for saying anything to Servin. She came to believe he would have continued driving if they would have ignored him. However, where it gets contentious is whether she had any conversations with a nurse in the hospital and said something to the effect that Cross was trying to “spook” the officer.
A defense lawyer pushed Beamon multiple times to recall comments she made to the nurse. She insisted she did not say any of the things he was claiming she had said to the nurse.
The defense also tried to use Beamon to establish that Servin was firing his weapon specifically at Cross, not Boyd. But Beamon destroyed that attempt when she replied, “He was trying to kill all of us.”
Martinez Sutton, who is Boyd’s brother, testified about what happened when police officers informed him that his sister had been shot. Detectives told him, “Your sister has been involved in a crime.” Sutton went to the hospital and saw Boyd hooked up to machines before she died.
Boyd’s mother, Angela Helton declared after the first day of the trial, “I just want justice for Rakia. I want the man to serve time in prison because right now I am in prison because I can’t see my daughter.” When asked what she thought about Servin, she said, “You’d don’t want me to let you know. I’m on camera. I can’t tell you how I feel.”
“One thing I can say, he sat up there in the court with a smirk on his face. He always has a smirk on his face like it’s funny.” Helton said she could never forgive Servin.
In the opening argument, the prosecution described what is expected of officers who are deployed to “serve and protect.” They suggested that “our officers” typically “live up” to a “tradition of excellence,” meaning they don’t recklessly shoot civilians while off-duty. Servin’s case was the “exception to the rule.”
Truthout investigative reporter Sarah Macaraeg recently studied 25 fatal shooting cases in 2012 in 2013 that the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) closed. “All of the shootings were deemed justified,” acccording to Macaraeg. “Investigations lasted an average of 16 months—10 months beyond the time limit recommended by the US Department of Justice. Among them is the killing of Black 20-year-old Michael Wilson, who was in possession of a hammer when shot by six officers, who collectively discharged 24 bullets.”
The Chicago Tribune has reported on how Chicago police often lead the country in shootings. Thirty-six people were shot in 2013, 26 who were black males. By August 2014, police had shot 34 people. So, there are a number of officers like Servin—except those officers have not been charged by prosecutors.
If anything about this case is an “exception to the rule,” it is that Servin is being prosecuted at all and there is a chance that some level of justice for Rekia Boyd’s family and friends may transpire in the courtroom in the coming week.
A side note about the trial—
WGN was allowed to broadcast the trial live on the internet. Video was then available for newscasts in the evening.
It is truly remarkable. Imagine if the public had been able to view a broadcast of the “NATO 3” trial that took place in January 2014. This should become something that occurs on a regular basis.
Here’s a clip of Rekia Boyd’s mother after the first day of the trial: