Chicago is reeling after José Nieves, an unarmed man, was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in the city’s Hermosa neighborhood last week. Police officials have confirmed that Nieves was unarmed when a 57-year-old mass transit officer fatally shot him. Police have not released the name of the officer who shot Nieves, but have placed him on desk duty.
“The person who was shot did not have a weapon. That much we know. The officer’s weapon is the only one we found,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the press during a news conference.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters, “I have a lot more questions than I have answers at this time.”
It was not the first time the officer and Nieves had interacted.
Chicago police, who confirmed that Nieves and the officer in question had a previous disagreement, say they are trying to construct a timeline of events leading up to the shooting. The incident remains under investigation.
Angelica Nieves, the victim’s sister, says her brother was previously harassed and threatened by the armed officer.
“He would complain about the guy pulling out his gun at him, him coming home from work. More than once, he’s called 911. They’ve gone to the apartment. They’ve gone there. They don’t do nothing about it. He’s an officer,” Angelica told CBS Chicago.
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At the dawn of Black History Month the timely release of “Judas and the Black Messiah” echoed the cries of injustice following a summer of civil unrest. In what was considered the largest multicultural protest of the 21st century, the words of Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton ferociously chanting “I AM…A REVOLUTIONARY!” continue to resonate.
The timely Civil Rights film, available to stream on HBO Max, follows the life and betrayal of The Illinois Black Panther Chairman (played by Daniel Kaluuya) at the hands of a party member and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (played by Lakeith Stanfield). Kaluuya’s captivating performance as the charismatic Hampton received widespread acclaim and his first Golden Globe win for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture.
For some audience members, this film will be their first introduction to Chairman Fred Hampton and an extension of the Black Panther Party. While the film is relatively accurate, the brief inclusion of the original Rainbow Coalition is pertinent to Hampton’s legacy. You can see its relation to the rise in multicultural youth-driven activism we see today.
In February 1969, Hampton and other Panther members met with Young Lords leader José “Cha-Cha” Jimenez after the Puerto Rican street organization shut themselves in the 18th District police station. The protest was calling attention to the police harassment of Latinx residents in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
The Young Lords started as a turf gang in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1960. By 1968, the Young Lords became a Civil Rights organization. The Illinois chapter and Young Lords formed the original Rainbow Coalition in April 1969. Jimenez referred to the coalition as a “poor people’s army” in an interview with Southside Weekly. Shortly after, the coalition grew to include the Young Patriots Organization a white, southern working-class group from Northern Chicago.
The Rainbow Coalition fought against police brutality and institutional racism in Chicago while working to uplift their local communities. The organization, consisting of people in their teens and early 20s, offered free breakfast programs and child daycare centers funded by donations from local businesses.
“It is impossible to make revolutionary change without the people,” Jimenez said in an interview with FightBack! News on the 50th anniversary of the coalition’s foundation.
“The Rainbow Coalition was more than just a gang of activists or folks trying to gain one or two small victories,” he told FightBack! News. “Each of our groups were already small revolutionary armies connected to the people’s struggle and trying to create a People’s Army to win the battle.”
Hampton and Jimenez were both sent to solitary confinement at Cook County Jail for their activism. In another incident noted in the film, Hampton was once sentenced after taking ice cream pops from an ice cream truck to pass out to neighborhood kids.
Supporters claim that it is a consequence of their street organizing and a threat to government authority for their Marxist-Leninist views.
The tension between the Chicago Police Department and the Black Panthers failed to cease, and the FBI was closing in on silencing Hampton. On December 4, 1969, the Cook County’s State Attorney Edward V. Hanrahan conducted an overnight raid on Hampton’s apartment with a warrant to search for illegal weapons.
Police barraged into Hampton’s apartment shooting gunfire wounding several Black Panthers and killing Black Panther security chief Mark Clark. Hampton was asleep in his bedroom next to his pregnant fiancée Deborah Johnson (who now goes by Akua Njeri) when he was struck by the gunfire, killing him.
Hampton was 21 at the time of his death.
The assassination of Fred Hampton left Coalition members distraught and fearful for their own lives as leadership slowly diminished. By 1973, the Rainbow Coalition had officially disbanded.
The embodiment of radicalized thought, in a sea of young revolutionaries, adorning their berets of black and purple. The roars of unapologetic protest against racism persisted and the legacy of youth-driven advocacy for the unified equity of all peoples vehemently lives on.
“Ours is not about individuals but a people’s struggle led by the common folk,” Jimenez said to FightBack! News. “Ours is a protracted struggle that will take years and we must prepare ourselves for the long run via structured community programs specific to the revolution.”
Finally, there is a conclusion to the tragic tale of Vanessa Marquez’s death. More than two years after the “ER” actress’s fatal shooting by police officers, her mother has finally found peace.
Vanessa Marquez’s mother has finally reached a settlement in the wrongful death suit she filed against the city of South Pasadena in California.
Both Marquez’s mother, Delia McElfresh, and South Pasadena agreed to a settlement of $450,000 “in order to save the parties the costs associated with protracted litigation.” McElfresh originally sued the city for $20 million in damages as well as to cover her daughter’s funeral expenses.
The lawsuit read, in part: “Their armed presence, coupled with the attempted removal of Ms. Marquez from her home against her will, was a militaristic, menacing, and threatening response to a frail and visibly debilitated woman who was exercising her right to remain in her home. Ms. Marquez’s death was the result of overreaction, excessive use of force, and gross mishandling of the situation.”
Marquez was known for her role as nurse Wendy Goldman in the first three seasons of “ER”. Her breakout role was as student Ana Delgado in the film, “Stand and Deliver”. She also had guest spots on hit shows like “Seinfeld” and “Melrose Place”.
The story of Marquez’s death is a tragic one. Marquez was shot to death by police officers after she pointed a BB gun at them. The officers were trying to get her psychiatric care.
On Aug. 20, 2018, police officers arrived at Marquez’s house at the request of one of her friends who was worried about her. As soon as the police arrived, Marquez began to have seizures. According to the officers present, they tried to reason with her for more than 90 minutes before they told her they were placing her on a psychiatric hold. At that point, Marquez pulled out a BB gun and pointed it at the officers.
The officers left her apartment and Marquez followed them, still pointing the replica gun at them. It was at that point that the officers fired 12 rounds at Marquez. She was taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
The story is yet another example of how mentally ill people are at risk of losing their lives if they come in contact with police officers at the wrong moment.
Wellness checks should not be conducted by police. Ridiculous.
The city of South Pasadena originally cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. “In this incident, the evidence demonstrates that Carrillo and Perez actually and reasonably believed Marquez posed an imminent threat of great bodily injury or death,” the city’s District Attorney said.