Marco Proano, the Chicago Police officer who fired 16 shots into a car full of unarmed teens, was found guilty of two federal civil rights violations -using unreasonable force and causing bodily injury. Though it is a small step of victory for supporters of criminal justice reform, it was not a clean victory nor was it without it’s shadows of impropriety.
A vehicle carrying 6 teens was pulled over at 95th and LaSalle by 2 other officers. Dash cam footage shows Proano arriving minutes later to the scene. Proano, upon exiting his vehicle, quickly withdrew his weapon (pointing it sideways into the teen’s stolen vehicle) and firing as the driver reverses away from him. The December 2013 shooting left two teens shot and another otherwise injured but no one was killed.
In the aftermath of the shooting, supporters of Proano claimed that it was a ‘split-second’ decision and that his actions were justified although I can’t imagine anyone watching the video believing that he felt there was an immediate danger. This incident didn’t fall through the cracks because the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) launched an investigation into the shooting. Initially, they barely investigated because, ironically, IPRA is just another cog in the rusty wheel of the criminal justice system.
IPRA was created in 2007 when complaints about how investigations against police officers were being conducted became unavoidable. Comprised of independent investigators, it replaced the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) which, was basically a group of police “investigating” police. IPRA was tasked to deliver unbiased and unfiltered investigations of complaints lodged against officers. It was not a secret, however, that OPS investigators simply moved over to IPRA. So much for transparency and accountability.
Ex-FBI Special Agent Larissa Camancho testified in court that in 2015 IPRA was contemplating clearing Proano in the shooting. After speaking with the investigator on the case, she went to the head of IPRA and told him she believed that the officer should be investigated. Not surprising because it’s been found that because IPRA has a less than 2% sustainability of complaints against officers, it was not as independent as the public was led to believe and moving forward, in September 2017, they will be replaced by a more rigorously independent agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
When black people say the criminal justice system is broken and skewed heavily away from the rights of blacks, it is not an understatement. We’ve seen proof of this when IPRA tried to clear officer Jason Van Dyke who, about a year after Proano’s crime, heinously shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald. It wasn’t until that video was released that Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Marco Proano faces up to 20 years in prison for his crime. I will wait to see, with bated breath, how many years he’ll receive. In the meantime we will celebrate because today there is one less volatile officer on the street slaughtering black people with impunity. This conviction sends at the very least a whisper that the status quo is no longer going to fly.
Not many will agree, but this is bigger than Colin Kaepernick. We cannot be fearful of exercising our rights for fear of backlash.
I guess that’s why it’s called ‘controversy’- not everyone agrees. The controversy I’m referring to is Willow Smith’s nipple shirt. This isn’t about the “Free the Nipple” movement. I don’t think it’s appropriate attire for a 14-year-old child. Others believe I’m going overboard because it’s just a shirt. I feel, however, that It removes boundaries and sets them up to be victimized. I disagree and the word “just” makes it sound innocent enough. It “just” doesn’t work for kids as well as it does for adults. I’m not saying this leads to bad behavior or that Willow is a bad kid. Willow is a rich, sheltered child who can afford to be expressive. That doesn’t hold true for the average American kid. We live in a society that complains about out-of-control kids and yet we’re afraid to set boundaries. In fact, we continue to remove them in the name of “freedom of expression”. “Just”… There’s just something about that word:
- Just a joint, until you get hooked on crack or meth- between ages 16-25 I’ve had guys tell me “do just one line of coke for me”. Just one. Just…
- Just sex, until you get pregnant
- They’re “just” boys – until the behavior escalates
- It’s “just” a conversation (or kiss, or hug) with that married person, until they have that affair
- Just one more drink, until you wreck the car
- Why not add: Just 4 killed/18 wounded over the weekend in Chicago. As opposed to 82 shot, 14 killed last July
- He’s just a child and it’s just a dollar he took. Give him a break, mom/dad. It could be worse.
My son wanted “just” a tattoo, a cell phone, a pager, a TV/VCR in his room, and pierced ears when he was 13. I told him when he turned 18 he could have as many tats as he wanted. He’s 32 and doesn’t have any tattoos (though he did get his ears pierced :-)! His priorities shifted as an adult and he didn’t think about tattoos anymore. I have nothing against those things. I didn’t feel that a black male teen in Chicago had a reason to have tattoos, pagers, and cell phones in the early 90s. And, I was right.
Is it possible that “just” opens the door to something “more”? Is it just a scratch that’ll heal, or one that will fester and require antibiotics? Is it just a scratch in the paint that’ll buff out, or is it one that will cost five hundred dollars to remove? Yes, I’m an “over thinker”. I’m the person who studies heavy traffic ½ mile down the road to determine my next lane change or whether or not I should exit. What seems “innocent” to some can actually be of potential harm to others.
I didn’t raise a girl but I’m 100% sure if I did she wouldn’t possess that particular shirt. There are so many ways to raise a girl and teach her to love her body and to empower her sexuality. At 14, this is not the way to encourage it because let’s face it, it invites the wrong kind of attention. In her mind she’s expressing liberation and freedom (I guess). But that is not what a pedophile will see when they see a child walking down the street wearing that shirt. Grown women are being followed, harassed, and attacked for deflecting unwanted attention. It’s not just a shirt–it’s a slippery slope.
So as far as “just” goes, there are reasonable ones and questionable ones. I feel that Willow’s nipple shirt falls into the latter. Just… In retrospect, maybe I should’ve tried just one line of coke to find out why everyone else was so fascinated. Just one.
I’m “just” saying, this is just my opinion…
Every life touches a life. That statement could not be truer than now for the people Alexander Villafane touched. He was a Humboldt Park youth football coach and resident of Little Village when he was shot in the head in front of his son just outside his home. Not only did the 39-year-old husband and father leave behind 2 sons and 2 daughters, he also left behind the children he coached and mentored.
For all the lives Mr. Villafane touched, there were many more to come. Children who needed a stable male presence in the most critical stage — ages 10-13– will now be left to navigate life without him. One bullet silenced a man who sacrificed his time and energy to keep kids off the streets and give them something positive and meaningful to look forward to. Just one bullet.
The ripple effect of a life snatched away cuts deep into the heart of our communities. The loss of this man reverberates from Humboldt Park, IL where he grew up and coached the Patriots, to Little Village where he lived, and throughout Chicago. As we wrestle with the senselessness of his death, we have to also discover what it will take to staunch the bloodshed that is to come.
Our communities are only as strong as the people who reside in them. Cameras can be installed and multitudes of police can be deployed but until we decide to stop covering for murderers, these tragedies will only continue to flow. Alexander Villafane is gone. We can only pray that the 10 to 13-year-old boys he left behind will not stray from the love that he instilled in them. We can only pray that whoever knows the person who did this will come forward. Maybe then the ripples of loss will become the waves of change.
(c) 2015 Kim R Woods – all rights reserved
**video: Homicide Watch Chicago homicides.suntimes.com