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Black Lives Matter Activists Sue Police Watchdog, Demand Dante Servin File

By Joe Ward | February 2, 2016 5:26pm
 Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd, talks about the officer who fatally shot his sister in 2012.
Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd, talks about the officer who fatally shot his sister in 2012.
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DNAinfo/Joe Ward

DOWNTOWN — A Black Lives Matter activist is suing the Independent Police Review Board for documents relating to its investigation into Chicago Police officer Dante Servin, who fatally shot Rekia Boyd in 2012.

Jason Tomkins said the city's police-abuse investigatory arm will not hand over documents that might shed light on why the officer evaded murder charges and why he is still on the job nearly four years after he shot Boyd.

Servin, now 46, was off duty when he opened fire at a group of people near Douglas Park on March 21, 2012, striking Antonio Cross in the hand and Boyd in the back of her head, a wound that killed her. He was found not guilty of manslaughter in April 2015 and remains on the police force to this day.


The lawsuit is the most recent action in the activists' struggles to bring accountability to Servin and the police department, members of Black Lives Matter and Black Youth Project said at a Tuesday press conference in Daley Plaza.

But a spokesman for the Independent Police Review Board, or IPRA, said Tomkins has not worked with the agency to obtain the documents.

Tomkins in November filed a Freedom of Information Act request for IPRA's documents from its investigation into Servin.

In a written response to Tomkins, an attorney for IPRA said the Servin file has over 2,000 document pages that would need to be reviewed, redacted and scanned, all of which would take more than 60 hours to complete.

Saying the request was "onerous and unduly burdensome," IPRA said it couldn't fulfill the request but that it would be willing to work with Tomkins to pare down his request so that it can be fulfilled. An unduly burdensome request is one of the legal reasons a public body can deny an records request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Tomkins did not respond in the 14 days he had to do so, according to Larry Merrit, IPRA spokesman. He did later reach out to the agency, which told him to get in contact with the records officer so the request could be narrowed, but Tomkins never did so, Merritt said.

Members of Black Lives Matter didn't immediately respond to Merritt's contention.

But Tomkins said earlier that IPRA's claim that the request is "too burdensome" is just another way to keep the public from knowing the inside story as to how Servin was able to beat involuntary manslaughter charges and keep his job on the police force.

"IPRA is essentially arguing that this request isn't worth two weeks of work," he said.

Activists and protesters have been calling for justice in the Boyd case even before widespread protests broke out in the name of Laquan McDonald, another black person fatally shot by police.

But the case came roaring back when former police Supt. Garry McCarthy announced that he would recommend Servin be fired — an announcement that came three years after the shooting death and one day before the city released footage of Laquan's shooting death.

Servin has not yet been fired by the city's Police Board, which has been a point of contention at recent board meetings where activists have demanded his firing.

Martinez Sutton, Boyd's older brother, said the ongoing saga has meant the family hasn't had any closure in the tragic killing.

"The least they can do is release this information about why we've been waiting for justice for four years," Sutton said. "Four years is too damn long."

Merritt said IPRA's investigation into Servin is technically completed (the agency has recommended his firing), but that the case is still open in that the Police Board is reviewing it. He said it is likely that some, though not all, of the Servin documents could be made public.



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