Rekia Boyd was 22 years old on March 21, 2012, when an off-duty Chicago, Illinois, police detective fatally shot her in the back of the head with an unregistered gun while she and a group of friends were in Douglas Park. Rekia and her friends were all unarmed. She was beloved and her life was senselessly cut short. Her outrageous murder sparked protests in Chicago and across the United States.
The white police officer was given desk duty pending investigation and a trial. On March 14, 2013, the City Council settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Rekia Boyd’s family for $4.5 million. After more than 20 months, the detective was charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of reckless discharge of a firearm, rather than murder charges. A judge acquitted the detective of all charges on April 20, 2015, basically blaming the State’s Attorney for botching the case.
In a directed verdict, the judge ruled that Illinois law considers the act of firing a gun into a group, as this officer did, an intentional act, necessitating a charge of first-degree murder. In other words, the judge strongly implied that this off-duty police officer should have been charged originally with first-degree murder. However, since he was not charged with first-degree murder, the case was closed. Illinois statutory law on double jeopardy prevented the officer from being re-charged in the future. The American judicial system failed Black people, yet again.
Martinez Sutton, Rekia’s brother, has become an anti-police brutality activist, founding Rekia’s Haven, and working with other organizations and movements to bring #Justice4Rekia and for Black women who have been brutalized and murdered. He wears a shirt with a picture of his precious Rekia and the profound words: “He took her life but not her voice.” In October 2015, he provided testimony of her case at a landmark hearing before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights, on excessive use of force against African Americans.