Two separate investigations were launched in November following the deaths of two black men while in Chicago police custody and now a third one could be underway.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-IL, said he did not want to sit around and do nothing and in the end be unsatisfied with the investigations. He fell short of saying he simply did not have enough confidence in the police to do a thorough investigation.
“I have no jurisdiction over the Chicago police so they do not have to adhere to anything I say,” Davis told modenook.com. “However, I do have oversight when it comes to the U.S. Justice Department. And besides, this is what they (Justice Department) do.”
On November 19 DeVelt Bradford, 52, a murder suspect, was found dead in his cell hanging by his underwear at a Chicago police lockup facility at 727 E. 111th St., and two days later Melvin Woods, 62, who was arrested for domestic battery, a misdemeanor, was also found dead in his cell hanging by his underwear.
Melissa Stratton, director of News Affairs for the Chicago Police Department, said their investigation is ongoing but will be thorough.
“There’s no timetable on when an investigation will conclude. The only thing we know for sure is that both deaths were ruled suicide by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. For now, that’s all we know,” she said.
Anytime someone dies in police custody foul play is never ruled out, said Scott Ando, a first deputy chief for the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, (IPRA) which among other things investigate allegations against police officers.
“These things take time when you have a death investigation to conduct,” Ando added.
Linda Bradford, mother of DeVelt, has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago police and is represented by Chicago attorney Sam Adam Jr., who also represented former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his first corruption trial that ended in a hung jury.
At a recent news conference calling for a federal investigation to coincide with one from the police and the IPRA, Davis said he was asked by Ms. Bradford to look into the murders, which is why he initially got involved.
“This is not just about two black men being found dead. This is about two human beings found dead when it is a reasonable expectation that they will be protected while in police custody,” explained Davis. “Even if they were white, I still would have called for a federal investigation.”
Sitting beside Adam, Davis and Mark Clements, a former death row inmate, who said Chicago police tortured him to confess to a crime he did not commit, was Bradford’s mother.
“I’m very sad. I’m very disappointed in the way that my son had to go. I just want to know what really happened,” she said.
Meanwhile Adam, who said he wants local U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the deaths. He said the two mysterious deaths mirror past accusations against Jon Burge, a former Chicago police commander, accused by more than a dozen Black men. The men had been incarcerated in state prisons after Chicago police officers tortured them until they confessed to crimes they said they did not commit.
Although Burge, who was a commander at the same police station on the Far South Side where the allege tortures took place during the 1980s, was never arrested for the torture allegations, he is currently serving time in a federal prison after being found guilty of perjury in a civil case.
The Burge allegations have “made the black community sensitive when it comes to law enforcement and I can’t say that I blame them,” added Davis.
And Vic Henderson, another Bradford attorney, said he is also leery about a complete investigation being done by the IPRA. He added that from his experience as an attorney it is rare that violent offenders commit suicide as both deaths have been ruled by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.