Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on Tuesday dismissed as “nonsense” speculation that he was pressured into firing Detective Dante Servin for the 2012 shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd to tamp down the political furor tied to the release of an incendiary video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“Nonsense. Nonsense. . . . If you’ve been at the Police Board meetings, what I’ve been hearing is a demand to make the decision. Here’s a case where we’re doing what the community wants. I’m making the decision. And somebody is going to criticize it saying it’s political? Come on. It’s ridiculous,” McCarthy told reporters after a police graduation ceremony at Navy Pier.
“Dante Servin made some incredibly poor decision making which ultimately resulted in a loss of life unnecessarily. He made a decision to get involved in something he shouldn’t have. He had a firearm he was not authorized to carry . . . When we make poor decisions, we have to be held accountable for it. That’s what this is all about. It’s about poor decision-making and the results obviously are tragic.”
One week after Servin was acquitted on involuntary manslaughter charges, McCarthy said the veteran detective should never have been indicted because he “hit the individual who he was aiming at” and “also happened to hit” Boyd.
The superintendent made those remarks on the day that riots broke out on the streets of Baltimore. The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus condemned the comments as insensitive. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was not happy at the time either.
At a time when police officers across the nation are under a microscope for allegedly disparate treatment of African-Americans, McCarthy also said at the time he was concerned at the time about the impact the case would have on the split-second decision-making by rank-and-file officers.
“When an officer gets themselves in a position where they have a fear that deadly physical force is to be used against them, that officer can’t hesitate. It provides a safety hazard for the officer,” the superintendent said.
“How is this going to affect policing in general and the Chicago Police Department? Because every single officer who’s out there now might be in a position where they hesitate and, as a result, they could lose their lives.”
On Tuesday, McCarthy was asked how he reconciles those remarks with his decision to fire Servin just as Chicago was bracing for the political fallout from the court-ordered release of the incendiary video of Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
The tape was hastily released late Tuesday — one day earlier than planned — after multiple media outlets obtained what a City Hall source described as “bad copies” of the video.
“That’s honestly a silly question because you were talking about criminal charges [in April]. Administratively, decision making is something he needs to be held accountable for. There’s a big difference between criminal charges and administrative reconciliation of department rules. That’s the simple answer,” McCarthy said.
The superintendent didn’t flinch when asked how the timing could not be viewed as politically-motivated. McCarthy waited until the McDonald shooting video was about to be released before acting on a Servin case that has been on his desk for two months.
“This is something that the community has been demanding and now, when I do it, you want to say it’s done for a different reason? This is the process. This is the contractual obligation. We have to follow that process. Period,” he said.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, said he doesn’t buy McCarthy’s claim that politics played no role in the timing of Servin’s firing.
“Whoever twisted that arm, thank you. I only know one person who can twist an arm like that in Chicago,” Sawyer said, in an obvious reference to Emanuel.
“I’m glad McCarthy changed his tune. But I’m disappointed in the statement he made previously and why it took him so long to come around.”
Whether or not the mayor played a role in the timing of Servin’s firing, he agreed with it.
“As a result of Dante Servin’s actions, a young woman who was an innocent bystander lost her life. He does not deserve to wear a police star or to patrol our communities, and [McCarthy’s] decision is the right one for Chicago,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the mayor’s office.
“Every day, officers across Chicago show their commitment to uphold the values, principles and high expectations we as a city place on them. I saw it as recently as [Tuesday] when we graduated a new class of police officers from the academy, each of who see their role not only as a job but as a calling to serve. And while we must recognize those officers, we must also hold any officer who violates the values and professionalism of our police department accountable.”
The fatal shooting happened near Servin’s home in Douglas Park as Boyd was walking to the store with a friend behind two men, one of whom she knew from the neighborhood.
That’s when Servin drove past the group in his personal vehicle, asked the men to be quiet and got a profanity-laced response, according to his attorney, Darren O’Brien.
At that point, Servin claims one of the men, Antonio Cross, pulled a gun from his waistband, pointed it at Servin and ran toward the officer’s car, coming within 2-to-5 feet. No gun was ever found.
In mid-April, a rare directed verdict of acquittal abruptly ended Servin’s trial.
In issuing the stunning ruling, Circuit Court Judge Dennis Porter said pointing a gun at an intended victim and pulling the trigger is an intentional act — not a reckless one. He essentially said Servin should have been charged with murder — not involuntary manslaughter — for firing into a crowd and killing Boyd in March 2012.
During an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times that preceded his second inauguration, Emanuel made it clear that he cringed when he heard McCarthy’s earlier remarks about the case.
“This is one of those things where there are multiple audiences. I know how different audiences heard differing things. I, as mayor, have to be sensitive to all that,” the mayor said then.
“And the time it was said [on the day Baltimore riots erupted] I am sensitive to that. I understand what the superintendent was speaking to and why he felt it was his responsibility to address it. [But] there are many people who heard it—not just the men and women in the Police Department.”