A Garden Hills Resident Responds

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A recent shooting in Garden Hills has generated several news reports and concerns within
the community. On July 14, 2007 an article appeared in the News Gazette where it is
said that community leaders met with the resident and police to try to find an effective
resolution. As a resident of Garden Hills and a member of CU Citizens for Peace and Justice
I met with Ms. Davis who lives at 4 Hedge Court and in my conversation with her
learned that what really happened is different than what the News-Gazette reported in
their latest article.
According to Ms. Davis the officers shot into her home after Torriano Johnson ran into
her living room on June 24. The News-Gazette reports that officers opened fire after Johnson
shot at them from inside her residence. Ms Davis told me that while Johnson had his
gun out he did not discharge the weapon while in her home. Another mistake made by the
News-Gazette was in identifying her as the owner of the residence. She is renting the
house and according to property records available on the Champaign County website the
owner of the house is Jamaal Applewhite who is a student at the University of Illinois.
In an email exchange with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice Mr. Applewhite indicated
he was having trouble finding someone to place a bid on the repairs. This contradicts the
account in the News-Gazette where community leaders expressed confidence that the
repair work was being done. I did ask Ms. Davis about the damage to her belongings and
she did tell me that the City of Champaign is providing compensation for her items, yet
she is still missing gifts she received for mothers day and her birthday which hold significant
personal and sentimental value.
After the police shot into her home Ms. Davis and her family were able to stay in a hotel
that DCFS provided for her. When she returned home she found that her refrigerator was
unplugged and the place had been ransacked. The food she had bought for the month was
completely spoiled and, as a resident of Garden Hills, I applaud the individuals who provided
her with assistance in that area.
This article quoted Champaign Police Chief Finney as saying that the police did not
shoot into the house and shot at the suspect when the suspect was in view. The window
treatments in this residence make it impossible to see inside the building and the red curtains
hanging in her living room have the bullet holes to prove it. Finney also claimed in
this article that things would be easier to understand if the community had all of the
information. However that is not going to happen as long as police records are suppressed
and public access to information is denied. Even the News-Gazette has to now
rely on press releases to get what should be information that is available under the Freedom
of Information Act.
I absolutely agree with Chief Finney that the police do not have a choice regarding the
locations where deadly force is present. However I find it disturbing that innocent
bystanders ended up being put in danger in this situation. Since Mr. Johnson did not fire
at officers while on Hedge Road there was no deadly force being used to merit shooting
into the residence. I do understand that Mr. Johnson did use his gun in parts of Urbana
and Champaign prior to being followed into Garden Hills. As a resident of Garden Hills I
would like to know what type of protocol is being used in situations where there are innocent
bystanders around. Ms. Davis told me that she is grateful that she and the children are
alive considering she was sitting in her chair by the window when the first shot entered the
building. How would the police department have handled this situation if it had happened
in Cherry Hills as opposed to Garden Hills?
Reverend Charles O. Nash Sr. was quoted by the News-Gazette stating a need for the
community and the police need to work together on finding a resolution to this issue. I
absolutely agree, but I do not consider the Champaign Community Relations Committee
to be the most effective advocate in the situation. Right now we are in a situation where
police records are not available to the press, the public, and anyone who is a defendant in
a criminal case is not allowed to have a copy of their own police report. This suppression
of vital information makes it difficult to hold officers accountable for their own actions.
A citizen’s review board in Champaign would be better because it functions as advocates
for members of the community and it can do so in a way that the Urban League and
the NAACP can not.

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