Off-duty Chicago police officer kills unarmed man

On Saturday, August 11, an off-duty Chicago police officer whose name has not been released shot and killed Christopher Middleton in nearby suburban Maywood. This is the second shooting of an unarmed person by an off-duty Chicago police officer this year.

The police officer was riding home on his motorcycle when Middleton’s four-year-old daughter, Tania Middleton, attempted to cross the street with her older cousin, John Passley, in front of the officer. The police officer, in an attempt to avoid striking the child, deliberately placed the motorcycle on its side. Nevertheless, it continued to skid, and hit the girl and Passley, causing injuries.

Christopher Middleton then approached the accident scene—reacting emotionally to the distressing incident—and confronted the police officer along with Passley, and both began striking the officer. The latter then drew a gun and shot Middleton, who, according to his fiancee, asked, “Why did you shoot me, why did you shoot me?” Middleton died of his injuries shortly afterward at a nearby hospital.

Showing contempt for the general population and an expectation of unquestioned obedience to police even when not on duty or acting in any official capacity, Pat Camden, the spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, stated that, “Had the father simply stood there instead of attacking a police officer he might be alive today.”

Ruling class organs moved quickly to exonerate the police officer in the court of public opinion and lay the blame for the murder on Middleton himself. Most egregious in this regard has been the Tribune Company. The Chicago Tribune produced an article headlined “Off-duty CPD officer kills attacker in Maywood,” which presents the views of the Fraternal Order of Police without question or comment. WGN-TV’s report on the incident bears the title “Off-duty Chicago cop shoots and kills Maywood man in self-defense.”

Though carrying less obviously biased headlines, the content of other articles and reports, including those of the Sun-Times and other local television stations, is no better. All present a picture of the police officer heroically attempting to avoid a child “darting” or “sprinting” into the street, who is then forced to defend himself against a life-threatening attack by an “angry” father and relatives. In fact, the universal descriptions of Middleton as angry are attempts to place the blame on Middleton’s character insofar as none of the reports make the obvious point that seeing a young child injured by a motorcycle would be an emotionally charged experience for any parent.

Middleton’s uncle, Darell Davis, noted: “Of course a father would be upset at the initial reaction of seeing the child in this condition, and he confronted the guy and they got into a confrontation.”

A major point of disagreement between Middleton’s family and the police has been over whether the officer identified himself before or after he shot Middleton. According to Camden, when Middleton approached the officer, the officer said, “I’m the police. Take it easy,” to which Middleton responded, “I don’t give a f*** who you are,” before he proceeded to punch the officer. Cordell Haggard, a cousin of Middleton, said the police officer “never let anyone know that he was an officer until after he shot him.”

Regardless of whether or not Middleton was aware he was fighting with a police officer, the fact is that he was unarmed, and did not deserve to be shot to death for reacting strongly to the injury of his daughter. As Davis, Middleton’s uncle, said of the officer, “I don’t believe he used necessary force.... If he was a police officer, with his experience, he could have calmed the situation in a better way than he dealt with it.”

Though the incident is being subjected to a pro forma investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, a spokesman for that agency told the Tribune that “his understanding of the incident matched” that of the Fraternal Order of Police spokesman.

According to a 2007 Tribune report on police shootings of “civilians,” a quarter of all shootings the previous year involved off-duty police officers. In addition, it was found that a civilian was shot on average once every 10 days, with more than 100 killed in the previous decade. Statistics from the Independent Police Review Authority show that CPD officers were involved in 3 fatal and 19 non-fatal shootings from the beginning of this year through June 30.

The ruling elite in Chicago and their associates in the media have been unfailing supporters of the increasing brutality of the Chicago police. Following the lead of Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, they hailed the May beatings of NATO protesters by riot-gear clad police as a vindication of their effective training and an example for country. In addition to ramping up policing this year, there has also been a long-standing media campaign calling for expansion in the ranks of the police force.

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