COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — Rekia Boyd's life was cut short by the "reckless" actions of an off-duty Chicago Police detective, prosecutors said Thursday at the officer's trial.
"She didn't see it coming; she didn't have a chance," Assistant State's Attorney Ramon Moore told a packed courtroom as opening statements in Dante Servin's trial began.
Servin, 46, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct in the 2012 shooting that killed 22-year-old Boyd and wounded another man. The trial started Thursday afternoon.
Servin was off-duty when he opened fire at Boyd and three others near Douglas Park about 1 a.m. on March 21, 2012. He has said he thought a man in the group pulled a gun, but police never recovered a weapon, and prosecutors said the man was holding a cell phone.
On Thursday, Moore argued that Servin failed to live up to the "tradition of excellence" people expect from police officers. Instead, the detective fired five rounds from a 9 mm semiautomatic gun, striking Antonio Cross in his hand and Boyd in the back of her head.
Defense attorney Jennifer Blagg countered that while the incident was a tragedy, Servin didn't commit a crime.
He had left his West Side home that night after reporting a loud party at Douglas Park. As Servin drove through the neighborhood, Blagg said, he spotted Boyd, another woman and two men making noise near the mouth of an alley.
"He said what any reasonable neighbor would say at 1 in the morning" and asked the group to quiet down, Blagg said. But the group exchanged heated words and Cross raised his cellphone as if it were a gun, the defense argued.
"Dante Servin had a split second to decide what to do," Blagg said. He fired five quick shots — "bang bang, bang bang bang."
Defense attorney Jennifer Blagg. Photo by John J. Kim.
Prosecutors played a recording of a 911 call Servin made before the confrontation. He can be heard about 11:49 p.m. on March 20 complaining about a party at nearby Douglas Park.
"It's out of control. There's 2, 300 people there and I'm afraid something bad is going to happen,'' he said of the incident that unfolded on the 1400 and 1500 blocks of South Albany Avenue.
Around the same time, Boyd was leaving Douglas Park with longtime friend Ikca Beamon, plus Cross and another man, according to testimony.
Beamon testified Thursday that the group had been drinking Jose Cuervo and smoking marijuana before they briefly parted ways that night. The women left to use a nearby restroom, and when they returned, saw Cross and the man leaving to buy cigarettes.
Boyd and Beamon trailed behind the men, and the group started to discuss how everyone was getting home. That's when Servin approached, Beamon said.
He pulled up to the foursome as they passed an alley near Albany Avenue and 15th Street, and said, "You all need to cool it with all that f---ing noise," according to Beamon.
She testified that Cross and the other man assumed Servin was looking to buy drugs and dismissed him. An exchange of words followed, and one of the men said "f--- you" to Servin several times.
The group kept walking, prosecutors and Beamon said, and Servin pulled a gun from his waistband and fired several shots out the window.
Blagg argued that Servin only started to shoot when Cross pulled out a cell phone and pointed it toward the off-duty officer as if it were a gun.
Defense attorney Darren O'Brien (l.) and Dante Servin (r.). Photo by John J. Kim.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Darren O'Brien, Beamon said she was mad at Cross and the other man, arguing that Boyd might still be alive if they hadn't mouthed off to Servin. She said "it's possible" that Cross pointed his phone at Servin, but she couldn't recall.
Beamon said Cross and the other man ran off when Servin started shooting, making it several blocks down the road. She hid behind a tree, and Boyd hit the ground. Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina testified that Boyd was shot in the back of her head, and that injuries on her knees and face suggest she fell forward.
Beamon said she only came out from behind the tree when police arrived. At that point, she saw her friend, who she often referred to as "my sister" during testimony, lying on the ground, struggling to breathe.
"I seen her brains coming out of her head. ... I just lost it," Beamon said. "I asked if I could ride in the ambulance with her. Rekia don't like being alone."
Boyd's brother, Martinez Sutton, said police arrived at his house — which he shared with his wife, mother, children and Boyd — and informed him "your sister's been involved in a crime." When he arrived at the hospital, Boyd was on life support.
Sutton said his sister worked odd jobs such as babysitting. The last time he saw her alive, she was sitting on the couch, talking on the phone.
Martinez Sutton testifies. Photo by John J. Kim.
Before the trial started, Sutton had said his family was hopeful for a conviction, but he didn't like the odds.
"If we look at the past history of all the so-called 'bad' police shootings," Sutton told DNAinfo Chicago, "or all of the people who've been killed by police, nobody's really been punished for it."
He added: "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."
Boyd's mother, Angela Helton, told reporters after court she was frustrated by the charges brought against Servin. Even if he's convicted, she said, he could still get "a slap on the wrist" since sentencing could amount to probation.
"Dante Servin could not serve enough years for me," Helton said. "He always has a smirk on his face like it's funny. ... You don't want to know what I think of him.
The city paid a $4.5 million settlement to Boyd's estate in 2013.
Servin and his attorneys didn't wish to comment on the case Thursday. Since he was criminally indicted, Servin has continued to work for the Chicago Police Department on desk duty.
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