District Judge Drops Cop from Civil Lawsuit in Cedric Chatman’s Murder

The cop may not have pulled the trigger, but he is complicit

February 1, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Cedrick Chatman
Cedrick Chatman

On Thursday, January 21, a federal judge ruled that a cop be dropped from the civil lawsuit of the murder of Cedrick Chatman, who was shot and killed by the Chicago police in January 2013 (see “Police Murder of Cedrick Chatman Approved by Chicago Powers: This Cannot Go Down! This Cannot Go On!” at revcom.us). The video of the shooting was only recently publicly released, on January 13 of this year, and showed Chatman running away when he was cold-bloodedly shot in the back by Kevin Fry. Officer Lou Toth was Fry’s partner at the scene. District Judge Robert Gettleman ruled that Toth should not be a part of the lawsuit because he didn’t fire his weapon and, according to police reports, did not actually see Fry fatally shoot Chatman.

My question is: Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but does that mean he is innocent?

He may not have pulled the trigger, but Toth did draw his gun out, a point that the lawyer for Chatman’s family’s argued was totally unnecessary as the cops approached the car Chatman was in. The judge disagreed. In other words, as in so many cases like these when it comes to Black and Brown people, it is entirely proper for cops to come out guns drawn, to be ready to “shoot first and ask questions later.” This isn’t use of force as a last resort and doing everything you can to apprehend the person before you use deadly force.

He may not have pulled the trigger, but Toth was the one who put the handcuffs on Chatman, and the video shows a gruesome image of Toth standing with one foot on Chatman’s back as he lay dying, conjuring up images of the stance that big-game hunters pose for photos after a successful kill. He didn’t come to Chatman’s aid, get down on his knees to see how he was doing. And although it was clear that the young man was not going anywhere, Toth saw fit to keep one foot on him. However, that image did capture very accurately the mindset of the cops and gets at their real role in society—Black young men in this country are, in a real sense, their prey.

Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but did he see anything wrong with Fry pulling the trigger? Did he go on record, like Lorenzo Davis, the former IPRA (Independent Police Review Authority) investigator, did, and say that this was an unnecessary use of a firearm? Of course not—or he himself might have been fired as Davis was. But more than that, as far as the cops are concerned, there is no such thing as an “unnecessary use of a firearm” when all the cops have to say is that their life is in danger to justify murder. There is no “good cop” here. He was a willing participant and in fact his testimony is critical to Fry’s case, because Toth claimed that Chatman “made a move to his right” which backs up Fry’s claim that he feared for his life because it appeared to him that Chatman was turning to shoot him, even though later it turned out that the only thing Chatman had in his hand was an iPhone box.

Toth may not have pulled the trigger, but he is complicit in a cover-up of murder in the Chatman case, which, it has become all too clear in recent months, is the standard operating procedure for the CPD. The testimony of both Fry and Toth actually changed in the civil lawsuit. In the original police report, Toth and Fry testified that they both saw Chatman reach for something before Chatman jumped out of the car, and that they yelled to each other that the young man had something in his hand—but in the lawsuit they said under oath that they never saw Chatman reach for anything, and they never said a word to each other before Fry pulled the trigger.

Yes there's a conspiracy, to get the cops off

"Yes there's a conspiracy... to get the cops off" Is a clip from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, given in 2003 in the United States. Bob Avakian is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

Learn more about BA here

The videos showing the killing of Cedrick Chatman only recently were forced out into light because of the people’s outrage over police murders of Darius Pinex, Laquan McDonald, Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones, and others. The authorities fear what would happen if they did not voluntarily release it, and risking that in doing so now, they could fool people into thinking that now there were real changes in the police department towards being more transparent, and try to get people to think that they should regain their faith in the CPD and the whole machinery of injustice in a continually developing situation that is challenging the legitimacy of the whole system. Brian Coffman, the attorney for the Chatman family, remarked that the city was “really trying to control the message,” and observed, “The City of Chicago has had not only the last month and a half, they’ve had over the last two and a half years to be transparent in this case.”

No, Toth and all the other people representing institutions that have participated in covering up and justifying Chatman’s murder, none of them actually pulled the trigger. The former superintendent and IPRA found the killing justified (after firing Davis!), and the district attorney who is now under fire in the Laquan McDonald case refused to prosecute. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel argued for months that releasing the Chatman videos would “inflame the public” (No Shit!) and used the now-discredited claim that doing so would jeopardize a fair trial in the family’s lawsuit. And now, it seems, a U.S. district judge has joined in the chorus by dropping Toth from the civil lawsuit.

What came to my mind in this latest development in the Chatman case, as well as in the killing of Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, and so many others, is this:





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