Illinois Public Media News
A coalition of groups in Champaign-Urbana's minority community says the police shooting death of Toto Kaiyewu raises questions about officer procedure when several departments investigate a suspect.
The African-American medical student from Texas was killed on April 6th following a police chase that ended on Interstate 74 near Oakwood. Officers from the Champaign County Sheriff's Department, Vermilion County, and the University of Illinois fired at Kaiyewu after they say he came at them with a machete. Aaron Ammons with CU Citizens for Peace and Justice is among those who question the initial distress call by a Villa Grove police officer. He says that heightened the intensity of the police chase that preceded the shooting, and such actions haven't seen an appropriate follow-up:
"Since Mr. Kaiyewu has been analyzed and scrutinized from every angle, we believe that it is fair and impartial that each officer involved receive the same treatment,' says Ammons. "We think that is the type of accountability and transparency that is necessary to maintain the public trust in our police departments. We don't think that's unreasonable to ask," This week, a Vermilion County Coroner's jury called the shooting of Kaiyewu a justifiable homicide. An extensive report by state police reveals that he suffered from mental illness. But Tracy Parsons of Urbana says the medical records don't justify the crime, citing 'inconsistencies' in the reports from the officers interviewed.
The groups say they plan a July public viewing of the police videotape of Kaiyewu's actions on the night of his death.
A federal judge says he intends to declare a mistrial on the remaining counts in the political corruption trial of ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The jury found Blagojevich guilty of one count of lying to federal agents in a verdict read around 4:30 Tuesday afternoon. There were 23 other counts against Blagojevich and four against his brother.
US attorneys say the government plans to retry the Blagojevich case "as quickly as possible.''
WILL-AM and FM have live coverage of the verdict until 6:00 tonight.
An outdoor art installation about Native American history on the University of Illinois Urbana campus vandlized again over the weekend. The director of the U of I's Native American House says it's the 7th attack on the art work.
The latest attack on the exhibit occurred late Friday night to the series of signs created by Native American Artist Edgar Heap of Birds. One sign was bent, and two signs --- directly in front of the campus' Native American House were stolen.
The installation is titled "Beyond the Chief", in reference to Chief Illiniwek, the longtime university symbol which was officially retired a couple of years ago amidst great controversy. The signs in the installation list various Native American tribes as playing "host" to the Fighting Illini --- except that the Fighting Illini name is printed backwards. Native American House director Robert Warrior says the signs pay tribute to tribes that once lived in Illinois, but were forced to leave by the federal government.
Warrior adds that if the attacks on the art installation are because of the Chief Illiniwek controversy, then it's an embarrassment for the university community. "I understand there are people in this community who continue to be upset that the university retired its former mascot," says Warrior. "And it's certainly their right to be upset. I fail to see how it is their right to engage in criminal actions against an art exhibit that seeks to be part of an education enterprise on an educational campus."
Warrior says the two signs that were stolen paid tribute to the Ho-Chunk and Peoria tribes. The Peoria tribe --- once in Illinois but now located in Oklahoma --- is the modern remnant of the Illini Confederation, which the name Chief Illiniwek refers to.
The repeated attacks on the "Beyond the Chief" installation began in March. U of I Police say they have surveillance video of the latest act of vandalism, which will be posted on their website. the video shows a college-age white male, wearing dark-colored shorts and a T-shirt. Sgt. Tony Brown says anyone with information about the attacks should call U of I Police at 217-333-1216 or contact Champaign County Crimestoppers at 217-373-TIPS or online at http://www.champaigncountycrimestoppers.com/ .
Updated: June 16, 2009
U of I Police say they'll be increasing patrols on the east side of the Urbana campus, where an armed robbery took place late Saturday night.
The robbery took place Saturday at approximately 11:30 PM on Pennsylvania Avenue near the corner of Dorner. The suspect, who appeared to have a gun in his hand, demanded cash from his victim. After getting the money, the suspect fled on foot. The victim was not hurt.
Police are looking for a white male in his early 20s, 6-foot to 6-foot-4 in height, athletically built and clean-shaven. He was wearing a dark grey athletic sweat suit with the hood pulled over his head. Anyone with information about the case should contact U of I or Urbana Police, or Champaign County Crimestoppers.
In a news release, University Police Chief Barbara O'Connor outlined tips for preventing crimes, including keeping doors and windows locked ... using well-lit and busy sidewalks where possible ... and carrying a cell phone, whistle or personal alarm to alert people if you need help.
UPDATE: This story has been corrected --- it erroneously stated that the robbery took place during the day, instead of at night.
The Vermilion County state's attorney has released the extensive state police report into the shooting death of a medical student after a chase.
The 320 page binder includes interviews with police officers who responded to the chase, which ended on I-74 near Oakwood April 6th with the death of 23 year old Toto Kaiyewu. State's attorney Randy Brinegar also released 34 discs including surveillance video of Kaiyewu buying a machete at a Walmart in southern Illinois - he had threatened police with a machete before he was killed.
Psychiatric records in the report suggest that Kaiyewu had been treated for several disorders and had reported feeling paranoid and having hallucinations two months before the incident - he had been sent by his medical school to Carbondale to re-take several failed courses, and he was dismissed from the school earlier this year.
Kaiyewu's parents have questioned why their son was stopped by police and later shot, and they have said he did not display any emotional problems. Abby and Victor Kaiyewu have not returned a phone call seeking comment, and their attorney would not comment.
An historic measure to limit campaign contributions in Illinois is headed to Governor Pat Quinn's desk, despite criticism it does little to actually curb the flow of campaign money.
Quinn admits the measure is flawed, but backs it anyway, saying it's the best the state can get right now.
Critics say there are too many loopholes. Representative Bill Black, a Danville Republican, says one of the biggest flaws is a lack of limits on so-called in-kind contributions. "That means those people who control the committee funds can use unlimited contributions to hire staff, lease computers, pay the rent on an office, buy hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign commercials," Black said on the House floor.
Meantime, the Senate failed to act on another reform measure the governor has called a top priority. The proposal would allow voters to decide to change the state constitution so an unpopular governor could be recalled.
But critics say the measure would put too much power in the hands of lawmakers. At least 30 lawmakers, with equal support from both parties, would have to sign off. So either party could block a recall effort. Critics also say other statewide elected officials should be eligible for recall.
Meanwhile, a legislative purge of state workers is not going forward after all. For now, state employees and commission members who could have lost their posts are safe.
The Illinois House overwhelmingly approved a plan to "fumigate" state government of people hired under disgraced former Governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Anyone current Governor Pat Quinn chose to keep on could stay, but otherwise the legislation would have fired seven hundred fifty of these political hires.
But when Senators took up the measure they voiced opposition. Republican Dan Cronin of Elmhurst called it a power grab. "It's irrelevant whether or not you had any connection whatsoever to Governor Blagojevich," Cronin said. "We're going to tell you that you're fired because we can. And you gotta come hat in hand, back into the office, come kiss the ring."
Senate President John Cullerton says in lieu of that criticism, he pulled the measure before Senators could take a vote, leaving open the opportunity to try again later. "I think there's some real confusion as to what it does, and I didn't want to rush into that until we make sure everybody understands what it is," Cullerton said.
House Speaker Mike Madigan drafted the measure. Madigan says it's needed to rid Illinois of anyone who abetted the former Governors' corrupt practices.
The Vermilion County state's attorney says officers from the Champaign and Vermilion County sheriffs' departments, and the University of Illinois police acted properly when they shot a 23 year old medical student to death near Oakwood --- ending a police chase that began in Douglas County.
State's Attorney Randy Brinegar says his conclusion comes after reviewing a more than 300-page state police report, and 30 audio and video recordings about the shooting of "Toto" Kaiyewu of Texas on April 6th.
Brinegar says there's "limited" squad car video that shows Kaiyewu brandishing a machete as he approaches police, after police stop-sticks forced him to stop his car on I-74 near the Oakwood exit. And he says "independent witness statements" confirm threatening behavior in his initial encounter with a police officer in the Douglas County town of Villa Grove. Brinegar says the statements confirm "that the suspect did place his car in reverse and back up toward the Villa Grove police officer."
Brinegar had little to say about why Kaiyewu acted as he did. He says an autopsy and toxicology tests found only marijuana and caffeine in his system. He would not comment on Kaiyewu's mental state, and said he would not release his medical and psychological records without permission from his family.
The family of Toto Kaiyewu questioned last month whether he truly threatened officers. Brinegar says his heart goes out of Kaiyewu's family and friends, and calls his death "every parent's nightmare".
A University of Illinois football player has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery after a bar fight that authorities say sent another man to the hospital.
Nineteen-year-old Mike Garrity of Batavia has pleaded not guilty after the fight at 1:55 a.m. Friday at Kam's, near campus.
Police say women at the bar told Garrity the unidentified man harassed them.
Champaign County prosecutor Julia Rietz says Garrity punched him, fracturing the man's skull. Rietz says the man is a university student and remained hospitalized Monday.
Garrity's attorney, Dan Pope, says he hasn't yet talked to his client.
Garrity is a 6-6, 310-pound sophomore lineman who has never played. A team spokeswoman says he's now suspended.
The assistant director of Ohio's prison system has won the top job at the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced Thursday that he is nominating Michael Randle to serve as director of the Illinois prison agency. He calls Randle "the best of the best.''
If confirmed by the state Senate, Randle will take over a system facing major challenges. Its prisons house far more inmates than they were designed to hold, while the size of the prison staff has been slashed by 25 percent.
Randle says he's concerned about the safety of overworked prison guards, but he's staying quiet about any possible solutions until he reviews the situation.
The Champaign City Council did some budget cutting during Tuesday night's study session. Council members approved a series of cuts to the budgets of police, fire, public works and administrative departments. Nearly 2.2 million dollars went on the chopping block. Many of the cuts eliminated positions that are currently vacant, or will become vacant in time, due to retirements.
District Four Councilwoman Marci Dodds voted against the cuts in police service --- the only "no" vote cast against the budget cuts last night. Dodds opposed the elimination of three vacant patrol officer positions. She says losing those positions will make it harder for the police department to staff its Community Assistance Teams --- teams she says have made a big difference in the Garden Hills neighborhood.
"And it could be happenstance, but the fire reductions and the public works reductions seemed less onerous than losing three police officers, particularly when we already have an understaffed district that's growing," Dodds said.
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney says the Community Assistance Teams will continue, even without the three patrol officer positions. But he says any additional cuts could endanger the program. Finney says while the police budget cuts may affect some programs, it will have no impact on the department's ability to respond to emergency calls. And he says the department is apply for a grant to pay the lion's share of restoring the three patrol officer positions.
The Champaign City Council will continue to hold budget hearings in May. A final vote is expected in June.
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