Illinois Public Media News
A former handyman convicted of killing seven people at a suburban Chicago fast food restaurant has been sentenced to life in prison.
37-year-old James Degorski was sentenced Wednesday during an appearance before Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan.
A jury convicted Degorski last month of shooting and stabbing seven people at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta Restaurant in Palatine in 1993.
The same jury recommended that Degorski be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Ten jurors had wanted to sentence him to death, but two refused. A death penalty verdict must be unanimous.
Degorski's high school friend and co-defendant, Juan Luna, was convicted in 2007. He's serving a life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.
This week's Champaign city council meeting brought out angry calls among adults for a police chief's resignation and for reviews of police policy. With emotions still strong, a subdued crowd of local youth last night looked for greater lines of communication following the police shooting death of Kiwane Carrington.
Aaron Ammons of Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice led about 100 people in a chant of "no more stolen lives" as they marched towards the rally at the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club. But more than 200 would eventually file into the gym, mostly African-American youth, where they would bring their remembrances of 15-year old Kiwane Carrington, who died two weeks ago today.
Youth Media Workshop co-director Will Paterson served as facilitator of the 90-minute forum. He says while young people are concerned, angry, and afraid about what happened... they aren't disrespectful.
"You need to respect the police officers and not back-talking to them -- and these were young people saying that, not adults," Paterson said. "They were saying that to each other. They called for better representation in terms of people hearing their concerns, but they were also talking about respecting authority."
16-year old Lavon Miller was a friend of Carrington's. He says lot of hurt remains, but wants to let the investigation of the October 9th shooting death play itself out. "Young black men going out here, starting trouble and revenge and starting even more problem -- that's a concern for me. Let the law take in in their hands," Miller said.
Aaron Ammons says the event was about young people being part of the solution and not the problem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
State Police are heading the investigation of Friday's scuffle involving Champaign Police that led to the shooting death of a 15-year old.
Officers were called to the 900 block of West Vine Street, when a resident reported multiple subjects were trying to break into a home there. They say Kiwane Carrington and another 15-year old male then disobeyed orders to get on the ground, and a struggle ensued. Carrington was killed when an officer's gun was discharged. That unnamed officer is on paid leave. The other officer at the scene, Police Chief R. T. Finney, suffered a sprained shoulder and knee.
Champaign Deputy Chief Troy Daniels says many community leaders were contacted following the incident, to show the proper process is being followed to investigate the incident.
"At this time, we believe that most reasonable people will let the invesigation take its course, and we'll wait to hear what the result of that investigation is," said Daniels. The other teen involved in the incident was taken the Youth Detention Center on a residential burglary charge. An autopsy is planned Saturday for Carrington.
A Central Illinois program that helps ex-felons transition into jobs and homes lost its funding this summer. Now its executive director wants to know how a number of new parolees returning to the Decatur area will seek out such services.
Decatur's Promise Community Center used to receive a 100-thousand grant to help those getting out of prison. But most of those funds helped those leaving a prison in East St. Louis, and few of them relocating in Decatur. So the grant ended June 30th, and will be shifted to East St. Louis at a later date. Promise Center Executive Director Reverend Leroy Smith says that makes sense, but he's concerned about the additional 1000 parolees that Governor Pat Quinn plans to release within a month. Smith says the Promise Center is basically a one-man operation, in which he takes a handful of referrals.
"I'm a person who, if I'm making a commitment, I will follow through," Smith said. "And our organization is known to do that."
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith says there's been no breakdown as to where the 1000 non-violent early-released prisoners will come from, but she assures there won't be a logjam of parolees in programs like the Promise Center.
"With that early release of inmates, Governor Quinn has allocated us two million dollars to help with that, which will help us electronically monitor those parolees as well as set up an increase support services that they may need," the spokeswoman said.
Reverend Smith says he still plans to advocate for ex-felons when possible. He still serves on an executive committee for prisoner re-entry under Governor Quinn.
Residents of the tiny Illinois town where five family members were slain in their home are anxiously awaiting any word to settle their nerves after authorities warned them to lock their doors at night.
Investigators are following leads but no arrests have been made or suspects identified in the killings in Beason in Logan County, near Lincoln.
Logan County Sheriff Steven Nichols calls the killings "brutal homicide.'' But he's not providing details about how the family died.
Autopsies were to be conducted Tuesday, but no results have been released.
The victims include a couple and their children ages 16, 14 and 11. A 3-year-old girl also survived the attack. The girl's grandmother identified her as another of the couple's daughters.
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