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GLN POLICE BRUTALITY NEWS

$3 Million Federal Lawsuit Hits Police Hate Crime

Victim Demands Devine Charge Anti-Gay Attackers

by Bob Schwartz

Chicago Anti-Bashing Network

Targeting hate crimes committed by police, activists with the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN), a gay rights group, and Attorney Tim Cavenagh denounced Cook County States Attorney Dick Devine Thursday for his failure to prosecute the cops who gay-bashed Chicagoan Jeffrey Lyons and announced the filing of $3 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the police, the City of Chicago and the cop bar where the bashing took place.

Lyons, who is not gay and is the son an officer killed in the line of duty, embraced a male friend outside of the Grand Central Station bar on the West Side November 25. An off-duty officer leaving the bar yelled “Get that faggot shit away from my truck” and physically attacked Lyons and his friend. Approximately 8 to 10 officers joined in the assault, leaving Lyons unconscious, with a broken nose and fractured cheekbone.

Towards the end of the pummeling, one cop taunted Lyons, “Get this through your head, you faggots will never win.”

While police officials assigned three officers to desk duty following the attack, in December they rescinded the order, alleging that this was done because Lyons could not identify the attackers in line-ups. Lyons’ attorney, Cavenagh, denounced this move as “irresponsible.” Lyons’ companion, who chooses to remain anonymous, copied down three license plates of the attackers as they left the crime scene, license plates which were later traced to Chicago police officers’ personal cars. Two of the cops tried to run down Lyons’ companion with their cars as they fled.

“If a civilian attacked a police officer and the only identifying information was the license plate of the car he or she fled in, you can bet the owner of that car would be behind bars within hours, but because it was cops who committed the crime, that’s not what happened,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of CABN. “What we have here is the double standard of justice, one for cops, one for civilians, which is all too common in this city. To allow these officers to remain with guns and badges on the streets of our city places other innocent civilians at risk.”

Police Cover-Up

In response to the reporters’ following up on the press conference, Police Superintendent Terry Hillard questioned why the city was targeted for the lawsuit, given that the cops allegedly were off duty at the time. But activists pointed to the police cover-up which began the night of the crime. Given that the bar was two blocks away from the police station, an officer responded to 911 calls by Lyons and his friend in only about 5 to 10 minutes, presumably while assailants were still driving away from the crime scene. Lyons’ companion promptly gave the plate numbers to the responding officer, but the officer didn’t even bother calling in the plates so the cars could by pulled over, let alone have arresting officers meet up with the attackers when they arrived at their homes.

Other evidence of police cover up is shown by how the responding officer failed to follow basic procedures to secure the crime scene. While some of the assailants fled in their vehicles, the lead assailant went back into the bar, and probably was still there when the responding officer arrived. With Lyons behind him, the responding officer went into the bar, but the bar door was then slammed in Lyons’s face and locked. Typical police procedure would call for the officer to assist Lyons in making an on-the-scene identification of his assailants rather than wait for a far less reliable line-up a few weeks later.

While the responding officer was in the bar, a female bar employee came outside with a bucket of water and washed Lyons’s blood off of the sidewalk, destroying further evidence.

While Lyons, as a son of a deceased police officer, was predisposed to have faith that the depart-ment would seek justice in his case, he’s been sorely disappointed. While fully cooperating with the department in its internal investigation of the attack, he’s received a stone wall in response, further indicating a cover-up.

For all their propaganda about “victims rights,” the city refuses to release any information to Lyons. He learned about the three officers on desk duty being returned to full duty by reading about it in the newspapers. The City refuses to release the police incident reports, the name of the responding officer, and the 911 tapes. In frustration, Lyons asked Cavenagh to file suit so that these materials could be obtained by subpoena.

While Lyons may have been surprised by the City’s response to hate crimes committed by its officers, activists point out that his case fits a long standing pattern of official inaction towards brutal cops who attack civilians on racial or other grounds.

“Mayor Daley is putting up a stonewall because he full well knows that admitting that he has brutal, bigoted officers on the force reflects poorly on his administration,” said Thayer. “And we’re not talking about just one or two ‘rogue’ officers here. In Lyons’s case we have a whole group of them, approximately 8 to 10, who joined in the attack. We have responding officers and a departmental hierarchy which is covering up the attack.

“Jeffrey Lyons joins a long list of other Chicagoans attacked by law enforcement because of racism and/or anti-gay bigotry – Freddie Mason, Jr., LaTonya Haggerty, Robert Russ, Terry Phalen, and Jeramiah Mereday, to name but a few. States Attorney Dick Devine makes a big deal about prosecuting hate crimes, but is no where to be found when the victims are attacked by bigoted police. This is no ‘oversight.’ As the former number two man to now-Mayor Richard Daley when they were both in the States Attorney’s office, Devine is loathe to do anything to upset his political alliance with the mayor. Devine knows that criminally prosecuting these cops – as any civilian would be in similar circumstances – puts the City’s financial position at risk.”

While one of the attacking cops can boast that “you faggots will never win,” CABN and other activists vow that through activism, they will force the city to grudgingly give Lyons the justice he deserves. “The history of police brutality in this city demonstrates that no matter how much evidence you have on your side, the only way you get justice is through activism,” said Thayer. “We intend to dog States Attorney Dick Devine and Mayor Richard Daley until justice is won. Other activists may believe that they can ‘work with’ Devine and Daley to achieve results, but these men have a long standing history of derailing justice against hate crimes commited by cops. We won’t be so naive as to believe the fox will grant us the keys to the chicken coop.”

CABN can be contacted at CABNstopthehate@aol.com or by calling 888.471.0874.

Bob Schwartz is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement and a member of CABN’s Coordinating Committee

 -3/15/2001



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