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Chicago cop Dante Servin recommended to be fired for fatal off-duty shooting
Chicago Detective Dante Servin, a 24-year police veteran, was cleared April 20, 2015, after a trial on involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct charges in the shooting death of Rekia Boyd, 22, of south suburban Dolton. (John J. Kim, Chicago Tribune)
City agency recommends that Detective Dante Servin be fired for fatal off-duty shooting
The city agency that investigates the most serious allegations against Chicago police officers has recommended that Detective Dante Servin be fired for the fatal off-duty shooting of a 22-year-old woman.
The decision from the Independent Police Review Authority comes almost five months after Servin was acquitted in Cook County criminal court on involuntary manslaughter charges in the killing of Rekia Boyd. Boyd was shot and killed in an alleyway when Servin fired over his shoulder at a group from inside his vehicle, and the officer told police he thought one in the group had a gun.
Chicago Police say a review board that examines allegations of misconduct by police officer has recommended an officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman in 2012 be fired. Sept. 16, 2015. (WGN-TV)
Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who had publicly disagreed with the criminal charges against Servin, will now decide if he agrees with the recommendation to fire him. If he goes along, the Chicago Police Board would decide if Servin should be fired. If that panel backs his firing, Servin could still sue in Cook County Circuit Court to try to win his job back.
Servin said he was not aware of IPRA's recommendation when reached by a reporter Wednesday afternoon.
"Wow. Wow. My God," he said through deep breaths after being told of IPRA's recommendation to fire him. "It's surreal and illogical. I lived this reality. And I am living this nightmare."
The case has taken on national interest amid growing concern about police use of lethal force, particularly on unarmed minorities, after several incidents across the country.
IPRA's Chief Administrator Scott Ando said Servin committed several violations, including shooting Boyd by discharging his gun into a crowd and carrying an unauthorized weapon. Servin also committed "inattention to duty" for making inconsistent statements about the incident to IPRA, Cook County prosecutors and Chicago police detectives, Ando said.
"As a result, I recommended that Detective Servin be separated from the Chicago Police Department," Ando said in a prepared statement. "These findings and recommendations were based on all available evidence, witness statements and the policies and procedures of the Chicago Police Department."
IPRA's decision to recommend firing was first announced by the Chicago Police Department, which issued a statement Wednesday an hour before IPRA did.
"Today, the Independent Police Review Authority, Chicago's external, civilian-led body that investigates all police-involved shootings, formally recommended that CPD separate Officer Dante Servin," police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in the statement. "We take the use of force by our officers, and the recommendations of IPRA, extremely seriously and we will carefully review the matter."
The move by the Police Department to break the news may serve to alleviate tension with protesters, who for months have been flooding City Hall and police board meetings, urging city officials to fire Servin.
Ando confirmed that he originally intended to make the recommendation announcement Thursday night at the Chicago Police Board's monthly meeting at police headquarters.
Boyd's brother, Martinez Sutton, who has been imploring the city to fire Servin, praised IPRA's decision as a step in the right direction.
"I think they seen that he did do wrong, and he was in the wrong overall," Sutton said in a telephone interview. "So we greatly appreciate it."
But Sutton said he isn't optimistic that McCarthy will agree with IPRA's recommendation.
"I don't have no faith in him at all," Sutton said of McCarthy. "Because if you think about it, he said the shooting was justified. I don't know how the death of an innocent woman can be called justified. You know, I'm still baffled over that."
Darren O'Brien, Servin's attorney at trial, called the recommendation "completely unjustified" and took exception with IPRA's claim that Servin fired into a crowd, saying testimony at trial proved he aimed at what he believed was an armed man.
"Dante Servin has always maintained he fired at a person in self-defense," O'Brien said. "... Bottom line is that he is being recommended to be fired for defending himself."
Servin had been the first Chicago police officer in years to be criminally charged for a fatal off-duty shooting, but the bench trial abruptly ended in April when a veteran judge at the 26th and California courthouse acquitted the detective on a legal fine point.
In a controversial decision, Judge Dennis Porter ruled that prosecutors failed to prove that Servin acted recklessly, saying that Illinois courts have consistently held that when an individual points a gun at an intended victim and shoots, even when a crowd is present, it is an intentional act, not a reckless one. Porter concluded that based on the evidence presented, murder was the appropriate charge — if there were charges at all.
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in the past defended her decision to charge Servin with involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors had alleged Servin acted recklessly in March 2012 when he fired five shots over his shoulder from inside his car in the direction of four people who had their backs to him in a dark West Side alley.
Servin's attorneys said he was in fear for his life after Antonio Cross, one of the four, pulled an object from his waistband, pointed it at Servin and ran toward his car. But police found only a cellphone.
Boyd, 22, was fatally shot in the back of the head, while other rounds grazed Cross' hand and hit a signpost. Only Cross was charged in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, but the misdemeanor aggravated assault charge was dropped in March 2013 — on the same day the city formally agreed to pay Boyd's estate $4.5 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit.
By November 2013, Alvarez charged Servin with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a weapon and reckless conduct — the first criminal charges against an off-duty Chicago cop since Gregory Becker was charged in the 1995 killing of a homeless man, Joseph Gould. A jury convicted Becker in 1997 of armed violence, involuntary manslaughter and official misconduct, and he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Reading his seven-page ruling from the bench, Porter said there was no dispute that Servin had intended to kill Cross, but under the involuntary manslaughter law, prosecutors had to prove he acted recklessly in the legal sense of the word.
Illinois law says that intentionally firing a gun at someone on the street "is an act that is so dangerous it is beyond reckless," Porter wrote. "It is intentional and the crime, if any there be, is first-degree murder."
Porter acknowledged that it was "perhaps even unfortunate" that neither side would have "closure" on whether Servin was justified in opening fire that night, but he said he had no choice under the law but to dismiss the charges.
Servin is the second Chicago police officer this year who IPRA has recommended be fired after shooting someone. The agency in April that Francisco Perez be fired after he was "inattentive to duty" when the off-duty officer fired 16 shots at the wrong car and wounded its driver moments after a drive-by shooting outside a Mexican restaurant in the East Ukrainian Village neighborhood in 2011.
After reviewing IPRA's findings, McCarthy in July recommended Perez be fired for lying about what happened — but not for actually shooting someone.
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