Tough week for suburban cops, but they rise to the challenge
I'd bet the Streamwood police officer who wrote the report on the missing 18-year-old had no idea it would be part of a horrific story that appalled the nation.
The report, written Monday, painstakingly chronicles how the officer spoke to the teen's parents in an interview room earlier that day, that the mother said she dropped off her son about 1:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve at a McDonald's at Schaumburg and Barrington roads. The mom said he might be meeting "Jordan." Both parents were concerned for their son because of his mental illness, which prompted police to enter his name as a missing endangered person in the state police data base.
The balance of the report -- released Thursday by Streamwood police when this blew up into a national story with the shocking online video of four suspects beating and humiliating the teen -- details the painstaking efforts made to find him.
Jordan, it would seem, is Jordan Hill, one of the four suspects in what's widely being called the Facebook torture case. As with nearly everything these days, it has prominent racial and political overtones: The suspects, who are black, are accused of hurling racial epithets at their victim and aiming similar invectives at Donald Trump. They're charged with hate crimes and other offenses.
Later, Streamwood police were credited with locating the video, an obvious key to making quick arrests.
My point here is that long before our local police knew they were going to be in the national spotlight, they were just going about their jobs. And doing so, from what I've seen, in a most professional manner. It's easy to get a little jaded about the volume of missing persons reports that come our way. Our lament is, "Oh, they'll probably find that guy before we have a chance to get this in print." But we dutifully pass along such reports as quickly as possible via our website and social media. And if we ever somehow assist in the finding of a lost person, who's likely in some sort of distress, that's time well spent.
The Facebook torture case capped a challenging week for suburban police.
It started with the New Year's Day shooting of a teen by a DuPage County Sheriff's deputy near Villa Park. Police-involved shootings get considerable scrutiny these days. And this one had all the makings of an especially explosive situation: The teen, Trevon Johnson, was black and mentally challenged. The deputy, who is white, answered the call on his own, without backup.
The verdict is out on whether the officer was justified in the shooting, though Trevon's family adamantly disagreed with the contention of police that he was wielding a knife. That detail, by the way, was among the very few we've been given by the sheriff's and coroner's offices, which have yet to return a phone call on the matter. One notable exception, though, was the release of the 911 recordings of family members' calls to police.
The combined time of the three calls is 20 minutes and 26 seconds, and we ran a lengthy written transcript trying to hit the key points. Many of the details are garbled and inaudible, but this much seems clear: There was a state of turmoil at the Johnson household that evening, and some members were obviously distressed about Trevon's behavior. The dispatchers at the other end of the line were calm, doing their best to get to the heart of the matter, trying to make sure everyone in the house was safe and determine how much of a threat Trevon posed.
Again, I'd bet the first dispatcher initially thought he was taking another in what undoubtedly is a long line of routine domestic dispute calls.
Meanwhile, Aurora had two fatal shootings in three days.
On Friday morning, a brief respite. Yet, another missing person report came our way, from Dan Ferrelli, Aurora's media relations manager. An 11-year-old had gone missing, so we quickly posted a short story. Within an hour, another dispatch from Ferrelli: The child had been found, safe and sound.
Maybe because of the events of the past week, I thought this happy ending deserved recognition. I wrote back:
"I think this is a record!
Nice work, Dan."
And to the other law enforcement we've encountered in a really tough week for crime, especially in our suburbs, I'd like to say, "Nice work, everyone."