Edward Nance worked for Comcast, officiated high school football and basketball games, and didn’t have a criminal record.
Not the kind of guy who Chicago Police officers normally tangle with in high-crime neighborhoods.
But when Officer Jason Van Dyke and his partner stopped Nance’s car in the Gresham police district on the South Side in 2007 because he didn’t have a front license plate, things went bad quickly.
Nance asked why the officers pulled him over and Van Dyke’s partner told him to “get the f— out” of the car. The partner allegedly slammed Nance’s head on the hood of his car.
Then Van Dyke violently handcuffed Nance and tossed him into the back seat of their squad car, according to a lawsuit Nance filed against the city.
A federal jury awarded Nance $350,000 for injuries to his shoulders that kept him from working at Comcast and at his part-time job as a referee for the Illinois High School Association. But Van Dyke and his partner — members of the now-disbanded Tactical Response Unit that patrolled high-crime areas — were never disciplined.
To this day, Nance wonders why investigators found the officers did nothing wrong, even though a jury did. The Independent Police Review Authority found the allegations against Van Dyke and his partner were unsustained because “there were no independent witnesses present during the incident” and “no way to determine” the cause of Nance’s injuries, according to a 2011 report by the agency.
On Tuesday, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald — leaving Nance stunned.
Nance’s attorney, Michael McCready, said he recently spoke to his client about the McDonald case and “it rocked him to the core.”
“He said if they had done something about this cop in our case, this young boy would still be alive,” McCready said.
Van Dyke, 37, earned a two-year college degree in criminal justice before entering a four-year program at Saint Xavier University on the South Side, according to a deposition he gave in the Nance lawsuit. He was a store clerk before he became a Chicago Police officer in 2001.
Eighteen citizen complaints have been filed against Van Dyke in his 14-year career, but he was never disciplined, according to a University of Chicago database.
Eight of the complaints alleged excessive force, two involving the use of a firearm in addition to the McDonald shooting.
In one incident just months before McDonald was killed, Darren Clemons claims Van Dyke and another officer fractured his face in a beating.
According to a lawsuit Clemons filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Clemons got into an argument with his son-in-law on April 19, 2014, at an apartment in the Chicago Lawn police district on the Southwest Side.
Clemons’ daughter called the police and his son-in-law asked Van Dyke and the other officer to remove him.
The officers hit Clemons in the face and head with a nightstick, causing him to pass out, the lawsuit said. Then they allegedly handcuffed Clemons and kicked him.
The officers took Clemons to the Chicago Lawn lockup for processing, but he was moved to Holy Cross Hospital and then transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital where he was treated for facial fractures and other injuries. The lawsuit is pending.
Antonio Romanucci, who is representing Clemons, said the disciplinary system for cops is “broken.”
Romanucci pointed to a $4.5 million settlement he obtained for the family of Freddie Wilson, a 34-year-old West Side rapper who died after he was shot 18 times by the police after a traffic stop in 2007.
Romanucci said the officers in the shooting were never disciplined.
“The system is 100 percent broken,” he said. “Had there been discipline in the Freddie Wilson case, perhaps Laquan McDonald wouldn’t have been shot because that officer would have thought twice.”
But Scott Ando, the chief administrator for the Independent Police Review Authority, told the City Council in October that things are changing. He said the rate of sustained cases against officers has risen to 20 percent this year from 4.4 percent in 2009. One reason for the rise in sustained cases is that mediation is being used to resolve complaints against cops, Ando said. The agency investigates every police-involved shooting and complaint of excessive force.