Lives stolen by the police
Rekia Boyd and Stephon Watts are two of the latest victims of police murder in the Chicago area. Rekia was a 22-year-old living on Chicago's West Side. She was shot by an off-duty officer who opened fire at a group of people standing on the edge of a city park, injuring one man and striking Rekia in the head. Stephon was an autistic 15-year-old killed in his own home by Calumet City officers supposedly responding to a call for assistance. The police claim Stephon threatened them with a butter knife.
In both cases, the police officers have not been punished in any way. In fact, on April 18, the Cook County state's attorney announced officially that no charges would be filed against officers in the murder of Stephon Watts.
Relatives of Rekia and Stephon were among the speakers at an April 11 forum in Chicago titled "Trayvon Martin and the Fight Against the New Jim Crow." Other speakers included Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor of the International Socialist Organization, Bishop Tavis Grant and Rev. Jeanette Wilson from Operation PUSH, Allisah Love of the Free Howard Morgan campaign, and Simeon Wright, the cousin of Emmett Till, who was killed by racists in 1955.
Here, we print the speeches of Rekia's brother Martinez Sutton, and Steven Watts and Wayne Watts, Stephon's father and uncle. You can watch the full meeting at WeAreMany.org.
HI. HOW are you all doing? For those of you who don't know, I'm the brother of Rekia Boyd. For people who didn't hear the story, she was out enjoying herself in Douglas Park. It was an unusually hot winter day, about 74 degrees, and so she was enjoying some of the weather.
She had to go and use the washroom, so a friend of hers let her use the washroom, and as she came out, a little crowd was confronted by an off-duty officer, Detective Dante Servin. He had words with one of the young men from the inside of his car. Nobody knew that he was an officer, nobody knew who he was. He was not an African American, and he was around the neighborhood at one o'clock in the morning--I mean, the first thing somebody's going to think is, you know, he's coming to buy drugs.
Words went back and forth for a second, and before everybody knew it, a gun was displayed outside the driver's side window. And anywhere from 10 to 18 shots rang out. Now this officer claimed that he was scared, that he feared for his life. But 10 to 18 shots don't sound like fear to me. Sounds like you're out hunting. You're shooting to kill.
There were two people shot that night. Mr. Cross was shot in the hand, and the way that he was shot and the way the bullet entered, it was more of a defensive wound--he was trying to shield his face. And another bullet hit my sister in the head.
She laid there for close to 30 minutes before she received any help. The ambulance couldn't get through. They had to roll the gurney almost a block just to come and get her. The hospital was a mere four blocks away.
When she got to the hospital, nobody touched her for six hours. Six hours! She laid there with a bullet in her head, clinging on to life. One surgeon finally had the courage to touch her, because she was young. Her vitals were still strong, and the doctor said that, you know, she hadn't given up on life. So she took the chance until her brain swelled, and of course she had to stop.
Now, my sister got shot around 1 o'clock in the morning. My sister was staying with me. I wasn't notified until 10:30 in the morning. I'm looking at the news, praying for a family of a 22-year-old girl who got shot in the head. I'm sending my prayers out to this family, and saying, you know, nobody can even enjoy themselves no more.
I come to find out when they knocked on my door, I'm the family that I'm praying for--my little sister.
She wasn't found with drugs on her. She wasn't found with any weapon--nobody in the crowd had a weapon. Nobody displayed a gun. According to Dante Servin, somebody showed one, but police were on the scene in less than 30 seconds. Where did the gun go?
When the detectives knocked on my door, they asked for me by name: "Are you Martinez Sutton?" I said, "Yes, what's the problem?" They said, "Are you the brother of Rekia Boyd?" I said, "Yes, what's going on?" They said, "Well, she's been involved in a crime." "A crime?" I said, and my eyebrows went up. I said, "What did she do? Where is she?" They said, "Well she's been shot in the head, she's laying in the hospital in critical condition--that's all the information we have. This is where you can find her at, and this is the number you can call to find out what's going on. Sorry." And they walked away.
That was the last contact I had with the police. Nobody called and offered the family condolences. We didn't even get a Hallmark card, a card at the funeral or anything.
You know, I miss my sister. I miss her coming upstairs, sitting in my chair for about 30 minutes, talking to me about improving her life. Talking to me about her ambitions and goals. And the craziest thing is, the day I planned her funeral was the day she was supposed to move down to Bloomington and start her life anew.
Now she can't do that. Why? She's six feet in the ground. Not able to move, not able to talk for herself, defend herself or anything--while this monster is still on the streets, working for this police department that's talking about how "we're investigating." What needs to be investigated? Nobody did anything wrong that night. Nobody.
And one of the most crazy things of all is that where my sister laid, near an alley, is right behind the officer's house. I guess nobody told you all that--right behind his own house. He came down the one-way street the wrong way, in his personal vehicle. He could have been intoxicated. We're not 100 percent sure yet, because nobody told us anything.
We're just looking for answers, and these tears on my face, they're not tears of defeat. They're not. I'm not going to stop. They're tears of determination. They're tears of anger.
They're just trying to sweep this under the rug. I want you all to know the rug has just been lifted off the floor. We're going to keep pushing for this until I get justice for my sister. Thanks you all.
Hello everyone, thank you for inviting me here. On February 1, my life changed. My baby was taken from me. He was murdered by Calumet City police officers.
It hurts so bad to talk about it that I'm going to introduce my brother and let him explain it to you. Because I'm in a lot of pain. I've seen four therapists, three psychiatrists. I can't sleep at night, I have to take pills. My baby is gone, he's six feet under, and he's not coming back. And there's nothing I can do about it. So, Wayne Watts, if you'd like to come up here.
We'd like to thank everybody out there for inviting us this evening. We as the Watts family stand in agreement with all the families here--Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd, Howard Morgan. But we also will need your help. We want justice, and we want justice now.
There's two police officers who came to my brother's house, and shot and murdered my nephew, and they could be walking around and talking to anybody--we don't even know their names. I've called, and I've called, and I've called, and no one will give us any information. Nothing. It's just a blank-out on what's going on.
This pain is horrendous. This pain is unimaginable. I'm sitting here listening to the stories, and I can feel all this pain going down to my toes because it's horrendous.
They shot and murdered my nephew in front of his father. We all, as parents, have this fear that one day, somebody's going to come knocking on your door. Right? We have this fear as a parent--I'm worried about my child, where is my child, where are they? Oh god, I can't find them, have you seen them? Because we're worried that something's going to happen.
But can you imagine seeing your baby's life taken in front of you. His last breath, and you see it.
My brother has been suffering immensely. He blames himself, constantly, over and over again. I said, "Stephen, you did not let these people come to your house to murder your child." He told me when they came in there that day, he told them it was alright, that he had things in order. They said, "No, we have to see Stephon."
He didn't call 911. He called non-emergency, because this was what we were afraid of--because he's a young Black child, just made 15 years old and had autism.
And you're talking about the police. We went up to the police station, and my sister-in-law was screaming and hollering, "You killed my baby! You killed my baby!" The officer told her, "Have a nice day." She screamed out, "What do you mean, have a nice day? You killed my child." And he's standing there, and he just smirked. And smiled.
Then they had a police press conference, and the police chief said, "We've been to the house nine or ten times, but Stephon crossed the line this time. He crossed the line." An autistic child--what line did he understand in his head? What line did he cross? I don't understand lines. What do you mean? And these officers are supposed to be trained for this.
So this pain is immense. I keep going over it in my head. What could I have done to save this baby? Could I have said another word? Should I have done this, should I have done this. And my brother is going through monumental pain. We're trying to go to church, we're trying to see psychiatrists, and every day, I have to hear him say, "It's my fault. It's my fault." I said, "Stephen, it's not your fault." He says, "It's my fault. I killed my baby. I killed my baby."
And so we need your help, because we want justice for Stephon Watts. I want justice. So I'm asking you guys to please sign this petition for us so we can get justice. They will not give us any information--they won't give us anything.
I'm asking for help. As a matter of fact, for my baby, I'm begging for it. We need help--to hold him up. So I can keep him standing up, so he can keep on fighting for his baby.
They were best friends. He keeps telling me, "Bro, I don't know what I'm going to do. My best friend's gone." He's gone. He's in the ground with that box over his head.
This stuff has got to stop, and it's got to stop now.
So I made this promise to my little brother. My health is not in the greatest shape. But I told him, until my dying breath, we will fight for your child. We will fight, I will turn over every rock, every stone and whatever I got to do, but I want justice.
I'm not talking about money. You cannot replace that baby. No amount of money can replace that child--not to see his face, not to see his children, not to see his marriage. All of that is all gone.
We had dreams for Stephon. We talked about what he was going to do when he grew up because he loved computers. So he thought that he's going to be a computer repairman, he's going to buy his own house. None of that will happen anymore--none of that.
So he's suffering now, and I'm standing up here to try to be his rock. And I will continue being a rock, brother. Because like I said, I don't know when the time is going to come when he stops blaming himself.
[Trayvon Martin's father and mother] said today that you have good times, and you have bad times, and that's what he has. For a minute, he's smiling, and the next minute, I'll look at him and ask, "What's wrong?" And he says, "He's gone."
So we are asking for your help. Please sign these petitions for us, because we are trying to get justice. We got to stop this, and we got to stop this now. This is 2012. This can't ever happen again--stop it now. Justice for these families! Justice for these families! We want justice, and we want justice now!
Transcription by Andrea Hektor