The African-American community received another gut-wrenching blow today when a judge found Chicago detective Dante Servin not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the death of Rekia Boyd, the 22-year-old Black woman he killed when he blindly fired five shots over his shoulder toward the spot where Boyd was standing with friends in the park.
Cook County Associate Judge Dennis Porter issued his written finding after Servin’s four-day bench trial, which took place without a jury. The judge found that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the off-duty officer acted recklessly when he killed Boyd in 2012.
Activists were watching the trial closely because many felt Boyd’s death didn’t get as much attention as many of the Black males who have been killed by police.
Judge Porter wrote that Servin’s actions did not fit the involuntary manslaughter charges brought by the state’s attorney.
“The act of intentionally firing a gun at some person or persons on the street is an act that is so dangerous it is beyond reckless; it is intentional and the crime if any there be, is first degree murder,” Porter wrote in his finding.
The courtroom exploded in angry shouts and tears upon the announcement of the ruling, according to Reuters.
“They said a lot of charges didn’t fit,” Boyd’s brother, Martinez Sutton, told reporters outside the courthouse as tears streamed down his face.
“It’s a vacation for him. I was promised that they were going to take this officer down. Let’s do justice.”
Boys was with friends in Chicago’s Douglas Park at around 1:00 a.m. on March 21, 2012, when Detective Dante Servin, responding to a disturbance call, arrived on the scene, though he was off-duty.
Servin exchanged words with Antonio Cross, who was also in the park. After turning away, Servin, who was in his car, claims he saw Cross pull out a gun—but it was actually Cross’s cell phone.
Servin fired five shots “blindly” over his shoulder from his unregistered gun, hitting Cross in his thumb and striking Boyd in the head. She died the next day at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“lt’s a sad day when charges are warranted against a police officer, but we feel very strongly that in this particular case Ms. Rekia Boyd lost her life for no reason and that this defendant’s actions were reckless in shooting in that alleyway that was occupied,” the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, said when the state brought charges against Servin.
The judge’s decision demonstrated just how difficult it is to get a conviction of a police officer for killing a civilian in the American criminal justice system—even when the officer is off-duty, shooting an unregistered gun and firing blindly into a crowd of people.
When Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter, it was the first time in more than 15 years a Chicago police officer was criminally charged. But many in the Black community wanted him charged with second-degree murder since he fired into a crowd over his shoulder.
It turns out the judge agreed that the charges weren’t proper.
The city settled a $4.5 million wrongful death lawsuit with Boyd’s family last year.