"Do you say you CAN use deadly force, even if a suspect poses no threat to you or any other person?"
"Yes," answered recently retired Chicago police officer Kenny Lunsford, a 31-year veteran of the force.
Lunsford, who is white, is on trial in civil court for shooting unarmed Cabrini Green resident Michael Russell in the back in 1998, and killing him. Another police witness, Officer Scott Oberg, testified Wednesday to seeing Lunsford and his partner pump a hail of bullets towards Russell's back. The trial, which also names the City of Chicago as a defendant, is expected to last through the middle of next week.
Activists charge that the police shooting of an unarmed African American man in the back demonstrates the contempt which the City of Chicago holds for some of its citizenry, and that racism is very much alive and well on the police force. Even though an internal police investigation of the killing found Officer Lunsford guilty of lying about the shooting, police brass led by Office of Professional Standards Chief Callie Baird overturned that ruling, and thanks to the inaction of the Cook County States Attorney's office, Lunsford is yet to face criminal charges.
To justify the killing of Russell, Officer Lunsford and his lawyers are not only saying it's perfectly legal to shoot an unarmed man in the back, they are concocting a story in which they accuse the deceased Russell of having shot at another man, Mario Morgan. But that story falls apart under any serious scrutiny:
* No one, aside from Officer Lunsford, ever said they saw Russell with a gun. No gun was ever recovered from the crime scene, even though Russell collapsed and died moments after running from the hail of bullets from Lunsford and his partner, who is now deceased.
* As to the other shooting, Craig Winn confessed to shooting Morgan, and pled guilty to it at his trial. Winn, who was convicted and is now free after serving 4 years for that crime, on Tuesday confessed once again to shooting Morgan.
* Morgan, the victim of that other shooting, also testified that Craig Winn was the shooter who injured him. Interviewed in his hospital room hours afterwards, Morgan identified Winn from a police photo spread, even though detectives attempted to steer him towards identifying the deceased Russell. "They grabbed the photo and said 'He's not the one who shot you,'" Morgan testified. "They told me that that wasn't the guy who shot me, that maybe I was a bit hysterical."
* At the time of the shootings in 1998, Morgan was facing a separate drug charge in which Lunsford was the arresting officer. On Tuesday Morgan testified that during his trial on the drug charge, outside the courtroom Lunsford approached him and offered leniency in the drug case if Morgan fingered the deceased Russell as the man who shot him. Morgan's attorney in the drug case, Steven Greenberg, testified yesterday to walking up and hearing Lunsford attempt the make the deal with his client, and put a stop to it. If Greenberg's and Morgan's testimonies are true, then Officer Lunsford, would not only be guilty of perjury, but witness tampering as well.
Michael Russell's family, led by his mother, Mildred Hamilton, is being represented by the firm of Loevy and Loevy, with attorneys Jon Loevy, Mike Rosenblatt, Amanda Antholt and Arthur Loevy trying the case for the family.
The Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN), the October 22nd Coalition, former death row inmate Aaron Patterson and other activists are encouraging members of the community to come to the trial at Room 1907 of the Daley Center, 55 W. Randolph, to show their support for Mildred Hamilton and her family. Court begins at 9:30 am every weekday. For more information call CABN at 888.471.0874.