CHICAGO - Two men convicted of killing Chicago police officers in separate incidents decades ago were paroled Thursday, drawing the ire of officials who opposed the move and believe it "sends a troubling message"
Johnny Veal was 17 when he and another man killed Sgt. James Severin and Officer Anthony Rizzato in 1970 as they walked across a field in the Cabrini-Green public housing complex. Veal, 68, and the now 74-year-old George Knights were convicted of the murders and sentenced to 100 to 199 years. Knights remains in prison.
Also paroled by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board was Joseph Hurst, 77, who was convicted of killing Officer Herman Stallworth and wounding his partner after being pulled over for speeding in 1967.
Former police Superintendent Phil Cline of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation expressed displeasure with the parole board’s decision.
"Clearly, the intent of the court was for these murderers to pay for the lives they stole with life in prison," Cline said in a statement. "More importantly, allowing these men to be free sends a troubling message to the families of these officers that their sacrifice and the lives of their loved ones are somehow insignificant."
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx opposed Veal’s parole, calling the killings of Severin and Rizzato a "cold-blooded execution" and noting that he bragged about it.
Veal told the parole board he was innocent despite what Foxx described as solid evidence against him. She also said there’s no evidence he and Knights were beaten by the police when they were questioned, as Veal suggested to the board.
Foxx sent a letter to the board last year saying she no longer objected to parole for Hurst.
Hurst shot Stallworth as the officer was searching him on the street, prosecutors said. Hurst ran away, shooting Stallworth’s partner in the face and later firing at other officers after barricading himself in a nearby building.
Hurst was sentenced to death. He was re-sentenced to 100 to 300 years in prison after the U.S. Supreme Court placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 1972.