Cops turn up heat on gang after violence

Chicago Sun-Times,  Jul 30, 2003  by Fran Spielman

 Tuesday and defended their handling of the gang's roving outdoor party that left a 9-year-old boy critically wounded.

First Deputy Police Supt. Phil Cline said Sunday's annual gathering honoring slain Mickey Cobras gang leader Henry "Mickey" Cogwell was successfully dispersed at three locations over a 16-hour period with an appropriate show of force--two to four squad cars.

That's a far cry from the no-holds-barred police response that kept downtown demonstrators at bay during the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue last November and prevented anti-war demonstrators who had taken over Lake Shore Drive from moving onto Michigan Avenue last March.

About 1 a.m. Monday, roughly 300 Mickey Cobras and their associates gathered at 44th and Shields, leading to the fourth call for police to the area since Sunday morning. Police responded to a call of shots fired and were "pelted with objects," Cline said.

"The problem here is that two gang members--members of the same gang--one owed the other one money for drugs. That's what the dispute was over and when he shot at the one gang member, he hit the children," Cline said, pointing out that five officers were injured in the ensuing clash with police.

"You're asking did the police do anything wrong and I'm saying no," Cline said.

The 9-year-old boy was sitting in a car when he was shot in the head and critically wounded. A 7-year-old, also in the car, was hurt when gunfire shattered a car window.

Police know the name of the gang member believed to be responsible for shooting 9-year-old Antonio Campbell, but did not have the offender in custody, Cline said.

Deering District Cmdr. Jack Killackey has launched an internal investigation in response to a citizen complaint that a squad car drove past the gathering 45 minutes before the final confrontation and drove away without taking any action or alerting supervisors.

"We're looking into that and, if that's found to be correct, we'll take disciplinary action," Cline said.

But the first deputy categorically denied that Chicago police could have done more to drive hundreds of partygoers from the area surrounding Fuller Park after curfew.

"You've got to remember, they didn't travel as a group. When they were dispersed, they went in all different directions. And it wasn't until 12 hours later that they re-assembled. So, as far as having police follow around some people who were going to have a party, I don't think that would be the best use of our resources," Cline said.

Wayne Milla, deputy chief of patrol for Area 1, said that after officers responded to the shooting call at the park and saw the melee, a citywide request was sent out for officers from other districts.

"Within 10 minutes, we had 44 units there," Milla said, adding that most of them had two officers each. "There was enough manpower to deal with the situation."

Still, Police Committee Chairman Isaac Carothers (29th) said the initial show of force should have been greater to send the Mickey Cobras a message and discourage them from gathering again.

"There's no doubt in my mind this could've been avoided. We just created this new 100-officer unit going around [to gang hot-spots]," Carothers said. "They could have been there. Special Operations could have been there. If we had the force to address the demonstrators downtown during the Iraq war, certainly we could have had enough force to stop what happened in Fuller Park. Hopefully, the police superintendent will look at this and make some changes."

Ald. Dorothy Tillman (3rd), whose ward includes Fuller Park, said, "What I can't understand is how the [TV news] cameras were there to see the fight and the melee before the police got there. It was all caught on camera. I'm trying to find out who in the community called the cameramen before they called police officers, which seemed kind of strange to me."

Tillman said she warned Killackey a few days before the outdoor gang party after nervous senior citizens called her office.

"Knowing it was an annual event, Cmdr. Killackey was on top of it. He moved these guys around from place to place. . . . He did great. I don't know what happened with some of his officers. The residents have said a couple of things and we're going to look into that. Did police come and did they leave? We need to investigate," she said.

Derrick Mosley said he was among community activists who have canvassed about 30 homes near the park.

"Those people told us not only was the police overlooking the issue and not getting involved, there were officers laughing that this big fight was taking place," he said. "It's true, the people fighting were acting like a bunch of savages. But the police had ample time to get backup. They didn't treat this seriously enough."

Cogwell, 31, was a leader of the Black P Stone Nation until he was killed in 1977. His faction, the Cobrastones, was renamed the Mickey Cobras in his honor.

A 29-year-old man who was among those shot in the 1 a.m. Monday fracas told detectives that one of the shooters lives in Dearborn Homes public housing at 29th and State, police said.