Cmdr. Paul Bauer’s memory looms over parole hearing in 1970 police murders

SHARE Cmdr. Paul Bauer’s memory looms over parole hearing in 1970 police murders

Cmdr. Paul Bauer.

As commander of the Chicago Police Department’s 18th District, it fell on Paul Bauer last summer to represent the department when it came time to challenge a petition for George Knights’ parole.

Knights and his co-defendant, Johnny Veal, are serving sentences of 99 to 199 years in prison for the murders of 18th District Sgt. James Severin and Officer Anthony Rizzato.

CPD commanders had been assigned to argue against the two inmates’ early release for nearly 40 years.

Bauer had wept at Knights’ hearing, making an impression on the board and on Severin’s niece, Jean Severin-Cabel.

“It was very powerful,” Severin-Cabel said on Wednesday, recalling the hours spent with Bauer at annual memorial luncheons her family and the Rizzatos have hosted at the 18th District.

Bauer, who was shot and killed earlier this month in a struggle with an armed man outside the Thompson Center, had been expected to address the board on Wednesday to oppose parole for Veal.

His memory loomed large at the proceedings – a “protest hearing” which did not include testimony from those arguing for Veal’s release.

“It would be an insult to every working member of the 18th District and police officers everywhere” if Veal were granted parole, testified Frank Gross, director of operations for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation.

Gross noted that a four-time convicted felon had been charged with Bauer’s murder.

“Keep (Veal) behind bars so we can be a little safer and honor Paul Bauer,” Gross said.

The parole board will review video of Wednesday’s testimony at a hearing on Veal’s petition for parole next month in Springfield.

Severin-Cabel and her sister Mary Severin have attended dozens of parole hearing for Veal and Knights, dating back to the 1980s, when the two women were in their early 20s. Severin had no children, so his brothers and nieces have for decades gathered petition signatures and trekked to downstate prisons, sometimes as often as twice a year.

On Wednesday, Severin’s niece, Jessica Kizorek flew in to attend her first hearing, as the family hope to involve a new generation to make sure Veal and Knights spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

“We organize like it’s a war. It is a war,” said Mary Severin. “My father, before he died in 2006, made us promise that we would not give up the fight to keep these two guys in prison for killing his brother.”

Severin and Rizzato were on patrol in the Cabrini Green housing projects in July 1970, as part of a team of officers who engaged in a “walk-and-talk” policing strategy that was a fore-runner of today’s community policing.

Police immediately rushed to the scene of the slaying of Sgt.James Severin and Patrol man Anthony Rizzato. | Sun-Times file

Police immediately rushed to the scene of the slaying of Sgt.James Severin and Patrol man Anthony Rizzato. | Sun-Times file

Cook County prosecutors said Veal and Knights opened fire on the officers from the sixth floor of one of the Cabrini towers as they walked across a baseball diamond in the complex.

Veal’s attorneys have appealed his sentence in the courts, on the grounds that his 99-to-199-year term is a de facto life sentence, after a parole board member opined at his last hearing that neither man should ever be released.

Veal was 17 at the time of the shooting, and a 2012 Supreme Court ruling found that life sentences for juvenile defendants are unconstitutional.

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