Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 21, 2009

Carrington Shooting Brings Raw Feelings to Champaign Council Meeting

Comments to the Champaign City Council Tuesday night about the shooting of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington included the charge that police policy may have authorized the shooting.

Kiwane Carrington was unarmed and attempting to flee when he was shot to death in a confrontation with police two weeks ago. Now, the group C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice says a document revising Champaign Police procedures authorizes the deadly use of force when a suspect is trying to avoid arrest -- even if no one is threatened with harm. Spokesperson Danielle Chynoweth told the city council such a policy opened the door for more police shootings of unarmed people.

"If you were a young kid who never read this use of force policy which even our group had the hardest time getting our hands on -- had to go through back channels to get a copy -- resistance can equal death. You must rewrite this policy," Chynoweth said.

Chynoweth was one of 52 speaking to the council last night about the Carrington shooting. In response, Champaign resident Randy Varnellas expressed concern that police policy would be changed in any way that reduced their options to act.

"I think police tonight took a real pounding to say the least, and I for one will continue to give the Champaign Police Department my full support as well as this council in any decision that you make," Varnellas told the council.

Police spokeswoman Rene Dunn declined to comment on deadly force policy at the meeting. But Councilman Mike LaDue garnered enough support from other council members to put the issue on the agenda of an upcoming study session.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - October 21, 2009

Citizens Demand Answers, Action after Champaign Police Shooting

It wasn't on the agenda, but the October 9th shooting death of Kiwane Carrington in a confrontation with police was the major topic at Tuesday night's Champaign City Council meeting. Council members heard some three hours of comments from a skeptical and sometimes angry public. AM 580's Jim Meadows reports.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 15, 2009

Hundreds Turn Out in Champaign for Vigil for Kiwane Carrington

Grief, anger, hope and resolve ... those were some of the feelings expressed Wednesday night at a candlelight vigil in memory of Kiawane Carrington, the 15-year-old Champaign youth shot to death last week in an altercation with police.

A crowd of several hundred --- overwhelmingly African-American, with a large percentage of young people --- gathered peacefully outside the house on West Vine Street where Kiwane Carrington was fatally wounded in what authorities have called an officer-involved shooting. With the investigation still ongoing and few details released, friend of the family Keesha Johnson called for unity.

"We as a community need to come together and seek justice for what happened to Kiwane Carrington," said Johnson to a round of applause.

Others who spoke at the vigil included Kiwane Carrington's father. In a quiet voice, Albert Carrington spoke to his son, "Kiwane, you know I told you I loved you, and I will still love you."

Regine Rivers, one of Kiwane Carrington's aunts, said she was at peace because Kiwane had accepted Jesus Christ as his savior before his death. "Kiwane accepted God at an early age", said Rivers. "Even though we didn't understand what he was doing, we understand now."

The gathering then walked through a light rain to New Hope Church of God in Christ a few blocks away. There, Baptist minister and State Senator James Meeks of Chicago cited the verse in Genesis, where God confronts Cain for the murder of his brother Abel with the words, "the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground".

"We're here tonight because we hear some crying", said Meeks. "And the crying is coming from the ground. And the crying is the blood of Kiwane crying from the ground to the community, saying, 'don't y'all just accept what y'all hear on face value.'"

Meeks called on young people in the audience to NOT act out their frustrations, but to stay calm in any encounter with police. He also said Champaign needs more black police officers and an independent police review board.

Meeks also serves on the board of the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. During his address at the church, Meeks held out the possibility of Jackson coming to Champaign, saying the civil rights leader was concerned about the Carrington shooting. But whatever the involvement of Jackson and himself, Meeks called on his audience to look to local ministers and pastors for leadership.

Funeral services for Kiwane Carrington will be held Friday at 11 A.M. at Salem Baptist Church, 500 East Park Street in Champaign.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 14, 2009

Officer Identified; Juvenile Charged, Released in Carrington Police Shooting

The police officer whose gun went off and killed a 15 year old boy during a confrontation in Champaign last Friday is a 14-year veteran of the Champaign Police Department.

Police released the name of Daniel Norbits yesterday. He's been on paid Administrative Leave ever since the shooting occurred on West Vine Street last week. In a news release, the department said they couldn't release Norbits' name earlier, because they needed to protect the integrity of the investigation, which is being done by outside police. They say they'll release more information as it becomes available, but only if it does not interfere with the investigation.

Meanwhile, a second teen involved in the incident has been released from detention to his mother's custody. The minor is charged with aggravated resisting a peace officer.

Carrington was shot and killed in a confrontation involving himself and another teen and Officer Norbits and Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney, after a neighbor reported an apparent home invasion. On Monday, the owner of the house in question said Carrington was a frequent visitor and always welcome there.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - October 12, 2009

Family, Others Want Answers from Police in Fatal Shooting of 15 Year Old

Family members say they want to know why a police run-in led to the death of 15 year old Kiwane Carrington - and they say Champaign police have told them very little.

Police say an officer's firearm discharged during a scuffle with Carrington and another teen after a neighbor reported what appeared to be a break-in at a Vine Street home. Carrington's adult sister Kinesha Williams was his legal guardian - she says police have never contacted the family or offered a liaison until well after he was killed. Williams also wants to know why a gun was involved against unarmed boys, and what can be done in the future.

"I want to know what we are going to do as a community to make sure that this does not happen to anybody else's family," Williams asked tearfully.

Family members say Carrington was troubled by the death of his mother from cancer last year, and he had truancy problems, but they say that didn't warrant the police response. The home's owner also says Carrington had lived there over the summer and was welcome in the home.

Police have called a meeting of their Community and Police Partnership for this afternoon to discuss the incident. But some -- including Pastor Evelyn Underwood of the Ministerial Alliance of Champaign-Urbana -- say the incident makes them think twice about working with police.

"I don't believe in groupthink, and a mind is a terrible thing to waste," Underwood told those assembled at a Monday press conference. "I've got a mind of my own. However, I will check with people I represent, the Ministerial Alliance, before I make decisions. (But) I will not be in secret meetings where I cannot go back top my group and say this is what's going on."

Champaign Police deputy chief Troy Daniels has not yet returned a call for comment - chief R.T. Finney suffered a slight injury in the scuffle. State police have been called in to investigate, but activist Terry Townsend says federal authorities should also look into the incident.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2009

ADM Found Liable for 2007 Workplace Death

A $6.74 million judgment against Archer Daniels Midland over a fatal accident would go to the parents and siblings of the man killed. But the Decatur-based company hasn't decided yet whether it will appeal the judgment.

A jury decided Friday that ADM should pay the money over the March 2007 death of 26-year-old Francisco Moreno Garcia.

Attorney Donald Shapiro represented Garcia's family. He says Garcia worked for a St. Louis company and was insulating pipes at one of ADM's Decatur facilities when a machine malfunctioned and sprayed him with steam and hot liquid.

Garcia died the next day, and a coroner says he was burned over almost 90 percent of his body. Shapiro says Garcia family lives in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

ADM says it's weighing the jury's decision as it decides its next steps.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 15, 2009

Cameras, Microphones Briefly Allowed in an Urbana Federal Courtroom

Tuesday's hearing over the consent decree was notable for how it was covered by the news media. Judge Joe Billy McDade allowed electronic media to record the hearing.

University of Illinois journalism professor Steve Helle says cameras and microphones have not been allowed in lower federal courts since 1994.

"The federal courts conducted an experiment between 1991 and 1994 with regard to cameras in the courts. And the experiment was positive, but the Judicial Conference nonetheless voted to ban cameras in the federal courts," said Helle. "There was reconsideration of that policy and they decided to allow cameras in the circuit courts of appeal but still ban them in the district courts."

Tuesday's consent decree settlement hearing took place in federal district court, were cameras and mics are normally banned. But Helle says judges have occasionally "fudged the rules" in civil cases.

In this case, Judge McDade granted an exception for TV cameras that was later extended to all media after a brief meeting with reporters Tuesday morning. McDade told reporters that he had made a mistake in initially approving TV cameras, which he had thought would be for one station's live coverage.

Helle says allowing cameras under any circumstances in a central Illinois federal district courtroom is unprecedented. And he doubts it will be repeated, unless federal court officials decide to change the rules.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 15, 2009

Consent Decree Hearing Reveals Resolve, Some Skepticism

What could be one of the final court hearings on the Champaign school district's consent decree is uncovering some doubt over a proposed settlement.

A federal judge invited written public comment on the proposal that would end seven years of court supervision over racial equity issues in Unit 4. On Tuesday, some of those commenters testified in person.

Before those people spoke, Champaign superintendent Arthur Culver answered a concern from Judge Joe Billy McDade that the public skepticism may stem from what happens in individual school - in other words, some staff may revert back to old habits or not share the same concern for equity.

I think it's clear that we're serous about this work," said Culver. "If our staff members aren't coming to work with the same vision and mission that we have set for this district, then there are consequences."

Part of the settlement includes a new committee to oversee future equity issues, such as alternative education or student assignment. Ardice James, with the National Council of African American Men worries that the Education Equity Excellence committee may not have any teeth.

"Who would this committee report to?" asked James. "I feel that this committee should report to the board and more or less be advisory. I also believe that any recommendation that this committee proposes, that the Board of Education should consider that recommendation very strongly."

But Carol Ashley, an attorney for the plaintiffs whose suit led to the consent decree, says that committee will be guided by a third party. It's not known when Judge McDade will decide to accept or deny the settlement.

The hearing was a rare event for a federal court in central Illinois. After initially ruling that television crews could videotape the courtroom hearing -- a rarity in the federal court system -- Judge Mc Dade responded to complaints from radio newspaper reporters and opened recording to all media. McDade told reporters before the hearing that he had made a mistake in believing he was approving one station's request to broadcast the entire hearing live, and he opened the hearing up to all recording devices out of fairness.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 10, 2009

UI, Grad Employees Continue Talks Amid Rally

University of Illinois negotiators and members of the union that represents graduate student employees held another bargaining session Wednesday.

Graduate Employees Organization members aren't happy with the direction talks are going -- they protested outside the Levis Faculty Center, where negotiations continued with the help of a federal mediator. The grad students' previous contract expired last month.

Carrie Pimblott is the GEO's lead negotiator. She calls the university's proposal for no raises over three years unacceptable - in fact, she claims most union requests are being rejected.

"They came back and said all of the proposals we had suggested that were monetary were untenable because they didn't have the money to do it. And a lot of our non-monetary issues they rejected for various reasons," Pimblott said. "Essentially they came back with a lot of very egregious proposals that not only rejected our central values but suggested that they would want to erode our grievance rights, erode our rights as union workers."

U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says they won't comment on negotiations while they're in progress.

Pimblott says the GEO wants to put pressure on the university through rallies - she says a labor action is not out of the question.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 26, 2009

Critics Ask Governor to Investigate Human Rights Complaints at Tamms Prison

Illinois state lawmakers are joining legal experts, clergy and mental health officials in pressing Gov. Pat Quinn to address what they call a human rights crisis at the state's only supermax prison.

The group has sent a letter to the governor, urging him to intervene in the operation of the Tamms Correctional Center in Alexander County.

Critics say that's where some inmates have been held in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.

The letter asks Quinn to sign an executive order that stops the placement of mentally ill prisoners at Tamms, bans long-term solitary confinement unless an inmate is deemed a threat and sets up oversight.

The state's new corrections chief, Michael Randle, is reviewing Tamms' policies at Quinn's request.


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