Barber Shop preview: the case of Howard Morgan, gun violence and police accountability

Seven years ago, an off-duty black police officer was shot 28 times by fellow officers. According to news reports, Howard Morgan, the officer in question, was stopped when he was driving the wrong way down a one-way street without headlights near his home in North Lawndale.

When four officers tried to arrest him, Morgan allegedly began shooting at them. The officers returned fire, hitting him 21 times in the back and seven times in the chest. The four officers suffered minor injuries.

Morgan survived and spent seven months in recovery. But today, he's facing 80 years in prison for charges that include attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Morgan was convicted in January on four counts of attempted murder, though he was cleared of charges of aggravated battery and discharging a weapon at a police officer in a 2007 trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 5.

His wife, Rosalind Morgan, says that whole case has been a cover-up to protect the misconduct of police.

“[Morgan] had never been in trouble, no prior arrests, no drugs, no alcohol. Four white officers and one black Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad police man with his weapon on him — around the corner from our home — and he just decided to go crazy? No. That’s ludicrous,” she recently told the Sun-Times.

The Chicago Reporter's Barber Shop Show will be on air Friday at noon to discuss Howard Morgan's’s sentencing, plus the broader issue of recent police shootings and accountability. Tune it to Vocalo 89.5 FM to listen to the show live.

What are your thoughts on the increasing gun violence in our neighborhoods, destined to go up - as it does often does - when the heat of the summer hits.

Leave us comments or queries under this article, on our Facebook page or tweet us @chicagoreporter.

Boyd’s case highlights growing calls for police accountability in the light of a string of shootings.

Late last month, an off-duty police officer was also involved in a shooting in the North Lawndale neighborhood. This time, the victim was hit once in the head. Rekia Boyd, 22, died on Thursday, March 22. The officer said that a man had approached him with a gun, but witnesses say that it was only a cell phone. Boyd was a bystander.

The day Boyd died, a Chicago Police Dept. officer shot a man allegedly holding a sawed-off shotgun. On Friday, March 23, there was another shooting involving a police officer in Chatham. And on March 25, Chicago officers in Lawndale fatally shot another man, who they say pulled a gun on them.

Dolores Smith-Scott, Rekia Boyd’s aunt, discusses her niece’s death during a Saturday protest in North Lawndale only blocks from where the shooting took place:

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  • While the Howard Morgan incident is indeed a travesty of injustice and it reveals a great lack of accountability on the account of the police force, and the community should be up in arms, as it were about it. There are too many holes in the case and the prosecutor really needs to have his name in the news so we can get his ass fired; however, it is a very different incident than the Rekia Boyd shooting which is more likely an accident.

    The officer in the Rekia Boyd shooting did exactly what we want the police to do. He heard a commotion around his home at one o'clock in the morning and he went to see about it. When he announced he was a police officer, everyone on the scene should have stayed still. No reason to pull out a cell phone that early in the morning when a police officer has a gun drawn on you. If the dude on the phone loudly announced his intentions and the officer gave the okay, then he was free to proceed, but short of that, you don't do nothing.

    The only thing that is nagging at me about that incident is whether or not the officer had been drinking at the time. It is easily assumed that police, drink a lot when they are off duty, so it was quite possible that the officer had been drinking. That has to be taken into consideration. But I am not going to be mad at the officer for coming to the scene or feeling threatened when he did, because as a member of the black community which is having a lot of issues with guns that don't involve any police, I think we would do well to stop and think about what happened in this incident.

    It was not so long ago that a retired police officer heard a commotion that resulted in his son, a current police officer was killed in front of their home. And I am willing to bet, that just like in that incident, the police officer in the Rekia Boyd incident is a black police officer. They may say that there is only one color on the police force and that is blue, we need to act on the fact that such a statement is not true.

    Not that I think we need to blindly support anyone ever, there was an incident a few years ago where a black police officer, while on duty, accidentally shot and killed a young man at the 95th Street 'L' Station. He then tried to cover it up and it turned into an even bigger mess. And it has to be noted that it started out a mess because he was late for work and the black officer who he was replacing on watch at the station had abandoned his post to no one at all. Everyone involved int that incident should have been publicly crucified.

    So lets not do to the black police officers who live in and serve our community, the same thing that white police officers (in a general sense) do to us routinely and that is to jump to the wrong conclusions, not taking the context of the matter into consideration and dealing with us as individuals not as a class of criminals.

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