Illinois Public Media News
Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows talked with Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney about a series of attacks in the past several weeks, where groups of young men have attacked lone individuals on the street late at night. In 21 attacks spread out over a month and a half, the victims have been mostly young men on the University of Illinois campus. Champaign Police are asking anyone with information on any of the attacks to call 217-351-4545, or contact Champaign County Crimestoppers anonymously at 217-373-TIPS.
(Photo by Jim Meadows/WILL)
The city of Champaign's new Fire and Police Memorial will be dedicated Tuesday evening at West Side Park.
Connie Finney, wife of Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney, co-chairs a committee of fire and police officers' wives. She organized the effort to choose a design and raise money for the new memorial. Finney said the memorial features a flagpole on a granite base featuring the names of Patrolmen Thomas Doddsworth and Robert Tatman and Firefighter Edward Hoffman.
"Fire and police officers put themselves out there every day," she said. "They make sacrifices that most people wouldn't do."
The new fire and police memorial replaces one erected on the same site in 1913, after Patrolman Dodsworth was killed while trying to arrest two suspected bootleggers. The old memorial had been the site of annual ceremonies held by the Champaign Fire and Police departments in previous years, but Finney noted the structure had deteriorated over the years.
"Being close to 100 years old, the concrete was crumbling, and it was kind of crooked," said Finney. "And one of the plaques was very hard to read. So I talked to my husband and said, 'You know, you really need to do something about this, because it doesn't look that great, and people really don't know it's a memorial.'"
So far, donors have contributed about $40,000 for the memorial. Finney said when another $60,000 is raised, statues of a police officer and firefighter will be added to the memorial site.
Fund-raising efforts for the new Champaign Fire and Police Memorial include the sale of bricks, which will pave the memorial site. For information on making a contribution, contact the city of Champaign at 217-403-8700.
Family members of Kiwane Carrington are condemning the wrongful death settlement unanimously approved by Champaign City Council members Tuesday night.
The father of the 15-year old killed in a police shooting nearly a year ago, Albert Carrington, said he will do whatever he can to get a larger amount, but he would not indicate how much more than the $470,000 settlement he is seeking.
Kiwane Carrington's sister, Kenesha Williams, got emotional when telling the council that she had turn the settlement down.
"This amount of money that you guys have offered or are deciding on tonight," said Williams. "You guys don't need to decide on it because I'm not taking it."
Williams declined further comment, but Albert Carrington challenged council members.
"Just think about what's going on," said Carrington. "My son was not an insurgent. He was not in Afghanistan. It's real out here."
Council members say they know no amount can make up for what Carrington's family has lost. Will Kyles said it is unfortunate that it took this tragedy to bring about change in the community, but he said those changes are underway, citing improved police relations with the African-American community.
"I do see people coming together," said Kyles. "I do think that we're going to make it out of this. I don't think we're going to make it out of it over rhetoric, but I do believe that we're going to make it out of it."
Council member Michael LaDue said Tuesday night's decision is "not a consummation." He said said city officials are grieving too because the community "is our family."
"The depth and range of emotion with respect to this has brought home to all of us who are charged with representing the people and their interests in this community," said LaDue, who choked up as he talked. "It is a profound thing but there is nothing more profound than the loss of an immediate loved one. There's nothing so permanent."
Champaign County NAACP President Jerome Chambers told the city council not to be satisfied solely with this decision.
"It's time for us now to build bridges instead of walls," said Chambers. "You've got this facade up that we can throw money at a situation. A band-aid will not cover a bullet hole."
Community activist Martel Miller told the council he is willing to meet with city officials and Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney. He noted that there is something wrong with a community if it can't settle its differences after the death of a young person.
The Champaign County Coroner's Office has identified a body found near Longview Monday afternoon as that of a missing University of Illinois German Studies professor.
Coroner Duane Northrup has identified the man as 48-year old Frederick Schwink of Longview. He had been missing since September 9th, and his disappearance prompted a plea for help from local authorities. A farmer discovered the body in a car sitting in a cornfield northwest of Longview Monday. An autopsy was conducted Tuesday morning. Northrup said dental records were used to identify the body, and an inquest may be held at a later date. Schwink's death is under investigation by U of I Police, the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, and the Coroner's Office.
If the city council approves on Tuesday, the city of Champaign will pay $ 470 thousand to the family of Kiwane Carrington, to settle a wrongful death lawsuit.
Even before the Champaign County state's attorney ruled that the shooting of the 15-year-old Carrington last October was accidental, his family had sued the city for wrongful death and survivors' benefits.
Champaign city attorney Frederick Stavins says the $470 thousand settlement is an effort by the city and the family to put Kiwane Carrington's death behind them --- and does not represent an admission of guilt by the city.
"There are no admissions in the case of negligence or wrongdoing," says Stavins. "What this does is, it brings peace between the parties. It allows the parties to go on. Speculating about what would happen now is a moot point."
Carrington was killed last October during an altercation with police investigating a report of a possible break-in at the home of a family friend where the 15 year old often stayed. The officer involved, Daniel Norbits, is appealing a 30 day suspension he received for not handling his weapon properly during the incident.
City Council member Will Kyles says he's ready to approve the settlement, if it's what the family wants. The Carrington shooting led to heavy criticism of Champaign Police relations with African-Americans, especially with young people. But Kyles says those relations have improved in the past year, thanks to increased community involvement.
"That's the key ingredient to healing, is community, city and police working together", says Kyles. "And I've seen a lot of that going with, with the Six Initiatives, CCAP, and the countless meetings that don't get broadcast, but occur on a weekly basis."
Kyles referred to City Manager Steve Carter's six initiatives for improving police-community relations, and the Champaign Community and Police Partnership, a city-organized panel of city and African-American community leaders. But Campaign officials have resisted calls from critics to form a citizen police review board, similar to the panel in Urbana.
Attorney James Montgomery, representing the Carrington Estate, says the family is pleased that the lawsuit has been settled. But Champaign City Council approval is still needed before any money is paid out.
The Champaign County Coroner's office has identified the man whose body was found face down in a retention pond in north Champaign yesterday. He's identified as 19-year old Aaron Williams of Champaign. Coroner Duane Northup says Williams drowned.
The body was discovered by a passerby just before 4 pm in the 300 block of West Marketview Drive. Williams' death remains under investigation by the Coroner's office and Champaign Police.
A series of attacks in Champaign has left the city's police department looking at ways to beef up crime prevention.
The Champaign Police Department reports that overall violence has dropped by less than a percent, but aggravated batteries are up by 10.1 percent, robberies 73.9 percent, and armed robberies have risen by 27.3 percent.
Many of these attacks in recent weeks have taken place on or near 4th and Green Street in Campustown. Chief of Police R.T. Finney would not say with certainty whether each attack is connected.
"You know many times a person is hit from behind, so identification is very difficult," explained Finney.
Finney said that arrests have been made, noting that the city is taking the attacks "very seriously" with increased officers on duty who are working overtime.
Champaign police officials are exploring ways to cut down on crime rates. Champaign Police Lieutenant Joe Gallo said in the next few weeks, his department will introduce a couple of new data mapping and analysis programs designed to help beef up security. Gallo explained that one program disseminates information for police officers to help them narrow down their search for a suspect.
"It alerts us that we've had three calls to service at this location in a given time period," said Gallo. "The intelligence portion is going to come up when we start looking at that address and go, 'Ok, this person was recently paroled at this address, and he has a history of violence. Maybe we better look at what he's doing over there.'"
The other program lets the public identify recent criminal activity in their neighborhood on an interactive map, similar to Google Maps. This program lets people sign up for alerts whenever there's a crime near their home.
"I think it's going to be a really valuable tool for our community," he said.
People are encouraged to report crime-related cases to the Champaign Police Department by calling 217-351-4545. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at 217-373-TIPS.
Retiring Urbana Police Chief Mike Bily said his biggest achievements in 26 years with the department did not make headlines.
Bily is retiring September 22nd. The Urbana City Council confirmed Assistant Chief Patrick Connolly to succeed him Monday night. Bily said overseeing a successful department often had to do with simply helping the community.
"The investigators to an outstanding job," said Bily. "The officers who work patrol 24/7, 365 days a year do good things every single day that receive very little notoriety. Those are the types of things I've proudest of, not any single personal accomplishment."
Connolly said his top goal is now filling vacancies, including the now-vacant assistant chief's position and open lieutenant positions.
"But I also recognize the needs of the city," said Connolly. "So there has to be a balance, and the mayor has been incredible with working with us so far, and I'm going to continue with that relationship, but I'm certainly not going to demand anything up front. We're going to work with the city as closely as we always have."
Connolly said becoming a chief has been a career ambition in his 33 years in law enforcement. He has been with Urbana Police since 1988.
Urbana Police Chief Mike Bily will retire later this month, after more than 25 years with the department.
Bily plans to step down September 22nd. Mayor Laurel Prussing will recommend Assistant Chief Patrick Connolly as his Bily's replacement at a special city council meeting on Monday. Bily was named chief in 2006, succeeding Eddie Adair. He was named assistant chief in 2004, and has been with the department since 1984.
Mayor Prussing was not available for comment this week. Her chief of staff, Mike Monson said the city's crime rate has dropped 33 percent under Bily. Monson said Urbana's Citizen Police Review Board was started under Chief Bily to hear concerns about police action.
"Those were kind of controversial when it was implemented, but it's working very well - the department's accepted it," said Monson. "Mike's a top-notch administrator as well, and was a team player when we had to leave some positions vacant this past fiscal year to keep our budget in good standing."
Monson said Bily has been also good working with the public, representing the department well in neighborhood association meetings.
Monday night's special meeting is at 7pm in the Urbana council chambers.
A defense attorney from the Southern Illinois town of Marion is facing criminal charges for allegedly attempting to traffic heroin-filled condoms into a federal prison in Indiana.
Robert Drew was taken into custody over the weekend at a Terre Haute jail, but was then admitted to a nearby hospital. Drew's wife, Joyce, said her husband was suffering from health problems connected to his diabetes.
He is listed in good condition, but would not return a call for comment.
A search of Drew's black Mercedes turned up marijuana, as well as the condoms with heroin, according to an affidavit written by FBI agent Jacob Overton.
Drew claimed the marijuana was for his own use, but he said he did not know what was in the condoms. However, he admitted that whatever they contained was prohibited in the prison, Overton wrote.
Overton reported Drew said he had delivered drugs to an inmate three to four times during the past year in private conference rooms inside the lockup. Lawyers gets more access and privacy to the conference room where they can talk to inmates, often with a guard standing outside the room. Those conversations are not tape recorded or listened in on by prison staff, according to Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley.
Joyce Drew said leading up to her husband's arrest; her husband received multiple threatening phone calls from someone who claimed that his grandkids would be harmed if he did not transport the drugs into the prison.
"If he committed that act on his own, then you know I am totally against that," she said. "If his story, which I believe, is true, then people should stop being so harsh to him."
Joyce said she does know who made the threatening phone calls and how her husband acquired the drugs. She also said she never spoke to the person making the threats.
U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison of Indiana's Southern District said Drew tried to get the heroin to "at least one" inmate at the prison.
Morrison said the long-time defense attorney is expected to make a court appearance shortly after he is released from the hospital. The government then has 30 days to indict.
The Bureau of Prisons' Traci Billingsley said known cases involving lawyers sneaking drugs into prisons are rare, and adds that all visitors to federal prisons are required to be scanned by a metal detector when entering.
Drew faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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