COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who killed an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Mo., was personal for Martinez Sutton.
Sutton, whose sister was killed by a Chicago police officer, said the Missouri case hurt because "I felt like that was my family that it happened to."
"It's always in the back of my mind that the officer [who shot my sister] may not be found guilty. The chances look slim to us that they will actually put this officer behind bars," Sutton said.
Sutton's 22-year-old sister, Rekia Boyd, was fatally shot in North Lawndale in 2012 when an off-duty Chicago police officer allegedly opened fire into an alley from inside his car.
Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin reportedly said he saw a man standing near Boyd raise a gun. Police never recovered a weapon, and prosecutors said the man was holding a cellphone.
Servin was criminally charged last year, and a judge is expected on Wednesday to set a trial date.
The city has paid a $4.5 million settlement to Boyd's estate.
Sutton said his family is hopeful for a conviction, but he doesn't like the odds.
"If we look at the past history of all the so-called 'bad' police shootings," Sutton said, "or all of the people who've been killed by police, nobody's really been punished for it."
According to the Tribune, Servin is the first Chicago police officer to be hit with criminal charges in more than 15 years.
The incident started shortly before midnight on March 20 when Servin spotted a party near his house, prosecutors said. He called 911 at 11:45 p.m. and reported a "huge party, drinking, fighting, smoking [and] drugs" in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of South Albany Avenue.
Servin left his house about 10 minutes later, armed with an unregistered Glock 9mm semiautomatic handgun, to "in his words, 'get a burger,'" prosecutors said at a bond hearing last year.
Around the same time, Boyd was leaving nearby Douglas Park where she had been drinking and hanging out with a female friend and two men, prosecutors said.
Servin pulled his car up to the group at the mouth of an alley near Albany Avenue and 15th Street, prosecutors said, and argued with the men, one of whom was later identified as Antonio Cross.
As the group walked away around 1 a.m., Servin claimed he saw Cross reach into his waistband, pull a gun and point it toward the off-duty detective, prosecutors said. Servin quickly pulled his own gun, reached it across his body and out the window, and opened fire, authorities said.
Cross, a convicted felon, was shot in the hand, while Boyd was struck in the back of the head. She died the next day.
Although Servin told investigators he thought Cross had a gun, no weapon was ever recovered. Prosecutors said Cross had been holding a cellphone.
Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden told reporters last year that someone in the group did have a weapon. He claimed the truth would come out during the trial.
"It's a sad day when an officer is charged for doing something he was trained to do," Camden said, arguing that Servin was acting in self-defense.
Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct. He was ordered released on $75,000 bail last fall. Since then, Servin has continued to work for the Chicago Police Department on desk duty.
"The officer remains stripped of his police powers and assigned to desk duty until the legal proceedings and investigations conclude," the Police Department stated Monday. "Due to the upcoming trial, we cannot comment further at this time."
In the statement, the Police Department said that over the last three and a half years the department "has led a return to community policing to foster stronger relationships between officers and the communities they serve, and instituted new training, mandatory for all officers, focused on how they are to interact with residents."
Sutton said watching events in Ferguson unfold has reminded him of his sister's case. On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson. The officer, Darren Wilson, said that Brown, who police said had just stolen cigars from a convenience store and punched the clerk, reached into the squad car and punched the officer in the face.
Witness accounts vary. Wilson was not indicted and has since resigned from the police force. The case has prompted demonstrations in cities across the United States by protesters who say that the Missouri incident illustrates common police brutality of black people.
Sutton said he was worried that the trial of Servin "is just leading up to disappointment," explaining that he thinks there's only a 50/50 change Servin will be convicted.
"I don't like the odds, but we have faith. We've got to have faith," he said.
While a conviction wouldn't bring his sister back, Sutton thinks it can help his family heal.
"I think it'll close one chapter in our life," he said. "Our mother hasn't been able to grieve properly yet. The killer of her daughter is still on the streets. ... My mom is suffering."
Sutton said he lost a child after heart surgery and "I know the way I felt, but for somebody to just take your child, your loved one, any loved one, that's probably the hardest thing that you can bear."
"And for the killer to still walk free? If it was me or someone else on the street [that did the shooting], they wouldn't have a $75,000 bail. I wouldn't be walking free," he said.
Sutton said his attorney was anticipating a January or February trial start date in Servin's case.
"I'd be lying if I said after this that Mike Brown is not on my mind. But I hope they do what's right. I really do. That's all people are looking for — just a little bit of justice, make me feel like a citizen, make me feel like I belong here, make me feel like we're equal," he said.
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