Chicago Police commander stands trial on brutality allegations

CHICAGO (FOX 32/STMW/AP) - A Chicago Police commander went on trial Tuesday over allegations that he jammed a gun down a suspect’s mouth and held a Taser to the man’s groin, at a time when city officials are facing criticism for their handling of the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

Glenn Evans — one of now-ousted police Supt. Garry McCarthy’s most trusted commanders who had 29 years with the department — drew headlines last year when he was charged with official misconduct and aggravated battery of Rickey J. Williams, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

In court Tuesday, Rickey Williams testified that Evans shoved a gun so far down his throat, to his Adam's apple, in January 2013 that he was gagging and later spat blood. Williams, who was 22 at the time, said he ran from a bus stop after an officer rolled up in an unmarked car and unnerved him with a stare.

He ran into a dark, abandoned building and hid in a pantry; several officers followed. In the glare of another officer's flashlight, Williams said that Evans threw him to the ground and put a knee in his side, a pistol in his mouth and a stun gun to his groin while demanding, "Tell me where the gun's at!" Police never found a gun. Williams said he was holding a cellphone.

Williams claimed under direct questioning that Evans had the gun in his left hand and the taser in his left, pointed at his groin.

Evans is charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and official misconduct.

His attorney, Laura Morask, questioned the credibility of Williams, who corrected himself several times on details during testimony.

Williams testified under questioning by prosecutors that he was not cuffed. However, under cross examination he seemed confused saying he was cuffed. At one point, the judge interrupted him and said "which was it" we're you cuffed or not? Williams said he was not.

Morask also said there's no evidence Evans had a stun gun or ever carried one while on duty, questioned the reliability of evidence showing Williams' DNA on Evans' gun and wondered why Williams never sought medical attention.

The public’s attention on how Evans’ bench trial unfolds may intensify with the nationwide scrutiny over the harrowing dashcam video that shows Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting of McDonald, 17.

“Here you have a case of a police officer who many people trusted, believed was doing a good job and believed was using excessive force for the good of the community. There is this thinking by some that it’s OK to look the other way as long as [police] get the bad guy. They think, ‘What’s the big deal? He didn’t lose an arm or leg and didn’t get killed,’ ” said a veteran assistant public defender who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“People should and will be watching the Evans trial, because it’s about police accountability,” the public defender added.

Federal court records also indicate that the popular officer was named as a defendant in five federal lawsuits between 1999 and 2013. The city settlements in those cases totaled $196,000.

Attorney Locke E. Bowman, who has represented several men who were tortured into false confessions, said Evans’ trial is more important than those of patrol officers because of his high rank within the police department.

“The city is on edge right now. We saw the Laquan McDonald video . . . and people are realizing now what many of us have known for a long time: Police brutality is a daily factor in some communities,” Bowman said.

Dante Servin was the last Chicago Police officer to go on trial at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for a serious offense involving a civilian.

While off duty, Servin shot and killed 22-year-old Rekia Boyd after he confronted her friends about a gathering close to his home near Douglas Park.

Last spring, Judge Dennis Porter acquitted Servin on involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge charges, insinuating that prosecutors should have charged the officer with first-degree murder.

Some critics had accused State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez of deliberately undercharging Servin.

But the criticism over Servin was nowhere near the wrath showered upon Alvarez after she announced murder charges against Van Dyke more than a year after McDonald was shot 16 times in October 2014.

Alvarez, who was especially testy last week when activists and politicians called for her resignation, has insisted that she had always planned on charging Van Dyke and only moved up her announcement in the interest of public safety with the court-ordered release of the video.

In late August 2014, Alvarez also had an explanation as to why it took over a year and a half to charge Evans after his alleged victim, Williams, lodged a brutality complaint.

Alvarez said the delay was caused by a backlog at the Illinois State Police crime lab in processing key DNA evidence.

Judge Diane Gordon Cannon will be presiding over the trial of Evans, 53. She has allowed the media to record only audio testimony because of the objection of some law enforcement witnesses who maintain that their undercover work would be compromised with the presence of cameras.

Prosecutors say their primary evidence against Evans is a match between the DNA evidence swabbed from his .45-caliber pistol and DNA evidence taken from Williams’ mouth.

Defense attorney Laura Morask, meanwhile, has said her client’s arrest was the result of a “flawed investigation” by the Independent Police Review Authority.

According to a court records, during the trial, Evans’ attorneys may cite a recent article from the Journal of Forensic Science titled, “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?”

Morask told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that she has “total belief” in her client.

On Jan. 30, 2013, prosecutors said Evans and other officers chased Williams after they spotted him holding a handgun near a bus stop at 71st and Eberhart.

Evans followed Williams into a vacant home where he allegedly put his gun “deep down” in Williams’ throat and put a Taser to his groin.

“Mother—— tell me where the guns are,” prosecutors said Evans told Williams.

Williams contacted IPRA a day after he was arrested for reckless conduct following the incident in the Grand Crossing District, where Evans was commander before moving to the Harrison District.

Williams initially mentioned a uniformed Hispanic and an African-American man in marked squad cars, according to court filings. Evans is African-American and was patrolling in an unmarked vehicle that day.

Two days later, on Feb. 1 of that year, Evans was asked to turn in his gun for DNA testing.

Later that afternoon, for the first time, Williams mentioned a commander nicknamed “300” to an IPRA investigator, a court filing said.

That investigator later noted in email that after Williams said his girlfriend knew Evans and saw him on the Internet without his glasses on, he wanted to revisit his description. But Williams later decided to stick with saying Evans was wearing glasses, the email said.

During a hearing in the Evans case last week, prosecutors revealed that Williams could not identify Evans in a photo array, reports said.

The reckless conduct charge against Williams was eventually dropped.

The gun he was allegedly carrying before he was arrested was never found.

Evans has been relieved of his police powers pending the outcome of the trial.

Several community members in court said they came to support Evans because he "cleaned up" the neighborhood, which some have described as having once been a shooting gallery for gangs.

Morask referenced the current atmosphere and scrutiny of policing around the country, saying prosecutors "fell prey to the context of the times."

The trial will resume Wednesday.

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