Champaign Police Fatally Shoot Unarmed 15 Year-old African American Youth

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month for an investigation into the “officer-
involved shooting” of Kiwane Carrington,
an unarmed 15 year-old African
American youth. There has been an outpouring
of support for young Kiwane
from friends and family. The community
anxiously awaits an answer to what happened that rainy
On Friday, Oct. 9, 2009, Champaign police responded
to a reported burglary on 906 W. Vine St. The first to arrive
on the scene was Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney who
confronted two 15 year-olds in the backyard. Classes in
the READY program that Kiwane attended were cancelled
that day for teacher instruction. Kiwane, whose mother
passed away last year from pancreatic cancer, was staying
at Debra Thomas’ home. He had eaten breakfast there that
morning. When he arrived at the house in the afternoon,
the door was locked and he had forgotten his key. It was
raining outside and the two were looking for shelter.
When Chief Finney arrived at approximately 1:20
p.m., he knew only that a neighbor had reported a burglary.
Soon after, a witness reportedly heard police yelling
out, “Get on the ground. Get on the ground.” It had been
raining for two days and the ground was wet and muddy.
When one of the youth tried to walk away, Finney grabbed
him and a struggle ensued.
Another officer appeared on the scene, Daniel Norbits,
a 14 year veteran of the force. Although neither of the 15
year-old boys had a weapon, Norbits apparently drew his
gun and, according to a press statement released Friday
night by Champaign police, it “was discharged resulting in
the fatal wounding of one of the subjects.” An autopsy
showed that the bullet went through Kiwane’s left elbow
and passed through his heart.
The News-Gazette has reported that Norbits had previously
been involved in the case of Greg Brown, a developmentally
disabled man who died of a heart attack after
he was beaten in an alley by Champaign police back in
2000. Witnesses said they heard Brown calling out for
help that night.
Virtually no other information has been provided by
the Champaign police about Kiwane’s death, saying they
do not want to impede the investigation headed by the Illinois
State Police. Yet Chief Finney was on the scene and
saw everything that happened. Did Norbits follow policy
as practiced by the Champaign Police Department? Is it
police policy to pull guns on youth? Or is this just the way
that Champaign police treat black youth? Chief Finney
must reveal the truth of what occurred that day. To remain
silent only fuels suspicion. For Kiwane’s family, it adds
insult to injury.
Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice
(CUCPJ) held a press conference on Monday, October 12,
at the Independent Media Center. Present were Kenesha
Williams, legal guardian and older sister of Kiwane, Christine
Williams, grandmother, his aunt Rhonda Carrington,
Debra Thomas, owner of the house where the incident
occurred; and Laura Manning, mother of the other youth
involved, Aaron Ammons, co-founder of CUCPJ, Terry
Townsend, longtime community activist, Seon Williams,
owner of The Whip barbershop, and Dr. Evelyn Underwood,
President of the Ministerial Alliance.
Behind them was a line of Kiwane’s friends holding
signs that read, “We want answers.” One of the youth
stepped up to address the cameras: “All them police are
real slick with them badges. Y’all see this on cameras, but
you don’t see what we see every day. Y’all don’t see how
they come harass us every day on the block. I get to the
point I get harassed by my first name. I come outside, they
follow me to the gas station. That’s not cool for nobody to
live their life. Every boy behind me has been harassed by
Champaign’s finest.”
The story of Kiwane’s death at was receiving
1,000 hits per day after the incident. Some of those who
knew him left messages. One of them wrote, “God bless
you Kiwane and your mother. May both of you rest in
peace together.”
On Wednesday night, October 14, a large vigil was held
at the house where the shooting occurred. Several hundred
youth, neighborhood residents, and community
members came to pay their respects to the memory of
Kiwane. After the vigil, the crowd marched up Prospect
Ave., many of the youth spilling into the street. Champaign
County Sheriff’s deputies were there to direct traffic
(Champaign police were nowhere to be seen). The crowd
was managed by several members of the Nation of Islam
who had come from Chicago and throughout the region to
serve as security for the event.
Many filled the congregation hall at New Hope Church
of God to hear State Senator and Vice-President of Operation
Push, Rev. James Meeks give a rousing speech. Meeks
lamented the death of young Kiwane. “This is what it
sounds like,” he preached, “when blood cries.” He insisted
that the community seek answers, “Put the police department
on notice that we aren’t going to accept open season
on Negro people.” Meeks called for an independent police
review board, which Urbana has established but Champaign
has refused to accept. “The worst thing in the
world,” Meeks said, “is to have the police police the
police.” He also demanded more black officers be hired on
the police force.
The second 15 year old involved has been released
from juvenile detention. The charge of burglary was
dropped, but State’s Attorney Julia Rietz has decided to
prosecute him for aggravated resisting a police officer, a
felony which carries a possible three-year sentence. His
next court date is November 12.
A memorial fund has been set up at Busey Bank for
anyone who would like to contribute. Donations can be
dropped off at any Busey Bank location or you can call
For video and audio of the press conference at the IMC,
as well as up-to-date information, go to

About Brian Dolinar

Brian Dolinar has been a community journalist since 2004.
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