At times, attorney Patrick Morrissey has trouble getting a hold of his client. A homeless woman named Rita King for years has roamed some of the roughest neighborhoods on Chicago’s south and west sides, but the dangers she has faced on those streets are nothing compared to the beating she allegedly took two years ago at the hands of one the city’s highest ranking cops: Commander Glenn Evans.
“She has it in her head that this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to her,” Morrissey says. “And I can’t say I disagree.”
What went down that day in April 2011 inside the Chicago Police Department’s District 6 headquarters was an act of alleged brutality in line with others Evans has supposedly carried out during his 28-year tenure. And it’s one that is now the focus of one of at least three lawsuits pending against the man and the city that employs him.
“They knew that Evans was the guy to call to use excessive force,” Morrissey says.
And that, King contends, is exactly what the 28-year Chicago police veteran used against her.
While Hollywood has romanticized the image of the vigilante cop who gets results by stepping outside legal lines, the real world isn’t as glitzy—or as easily managed. Often times it’s not Dirty Harry going after a gun-wielding psycho, but cops padding stats by racking up arrests. In the case of Evans, it's dozens of complaints and hundreds of stories of violence carried out by someone charged with protecting and serving. For King the movie theater fantasy of renegade cop worked to frighten and physically injure a woman who was brought in following a domestic conflict with her boyfriend—a woman who, by her own lawyer’s admission and the judgment of the cops who dealt with her before Evans entered the room, is mentally unstable.
Evans was a lieutenant in charge of the District 6 lockup facility where King was being held on charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct. A man listed as King’s boyfriend, Jeffrey Morris, told police he had been threatened. King supposedly told her 46-year-old partner that she was “going to stab him in the neck with a pencil,” burn down his house and set fire to his car. She was brought in to District 6 to be fingerprinted and processed. Handcuffed to a wall, according to a deposition given by one of the officers in the room that day, King resisted attempts to have her fingerprints taken. She didn’t get physical, though, instead requesting a transfer to the District 5 lockup facility, where women are usually processed for arrest. That wasn’t possible, she was told—a statement that would be mirrored later when Evans allegedly said he didn’t want to waste his officers’ time by taking King to the hospital, where she would be diagnosed with a fractured left orbital bone. At some point, one of the cops determined King was “high, drunk, or had a mental illness,” and summoned Evans.“They knew this guy is just an aggressive, ruthless police officer who isn’t afraid to do things like this,” Morrissey says.Evans used a “pressure point control technique,” one of the officers testified in his deposition. That’s one way to put it. Another is that Evans manhandled King by shoving her nose upward, telling the now-40-year-old that he would push her nose “through her brain,” she says. The immediate results of Evans’ police work were a broken eye socket and one of the more unsettling mugshot photos you’ll see. But his actions that night did not result in any investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), to whom King complained.“They really didn’t do anything about this investigation until after two years, until Ms. King finds me and we file a lawsuit for her,” Morrissey says.Since his career began in 1986, Evans has been the subject of at least six lawsuits, an investigation by WBEZ Chicago found, and more than two dozen complaints of excessive force. All told the city has doled out more than a quarter-million dollars of taxpayer money to defend the 52-year-old—part of more than $500 million in police misconduct claims over the past 10 years, according to the Better Government Association. But Evans’ brand of police work is an especially dirty one, if you believe the likes of King and others who’ve brought suits against the city. Evans, like those before him, may be the latest in a long line of Chicago cops who’ve bent the rules—in their minds to keep the city safe. Burge’s actions, which included torturing suspects with cattle prods and other electronic devices to solicit false confessions, are well known. And while Evans’ supposed sins may not be as severe, if true, they may represent the continuation of practices that have served to dehumanize members of the black community in Chicago.“Over there at 63rd and College Grove, I talked to guys up there,” says Paul McKinley, a native of the city’s south side and an outspoken critic of Evans, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “And they said Glenn Evans will take you up to the cemetery, throw you in an open grave and tell you he is going to kill you.”While McKinley’s grim vision is almost surely an exaggerated street story, threats of death and bodily harm apparently aren’t far from the truth when it comes to others who have ended up on Evans’ bad side. One of those is Rickey Williams, the most recent Chicagaoan to file suit. As a result of his accusations, and the ensuing investigation, Evans was charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct for sticking his gun into Williams’ mouth and shoving a taser into the south side man’s crotch after he ran from Evans and other cops. Williams, who says he was spooked and fled after Evans pulled up in a cruiser and stared at the 24-year old for no apparent reason, was never charged with anything as a result of his interactions with police that day. With his gun in Williams’ mouth, Evans allegedly screamed “Where’s the guns?!” according to court documents.
At the time, Williams had none.
“No words can describe how afraid I was when the gun was pushed in my mouth when I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” Williams said through his attorney, Antonio Romannuci, at a Sept. 9 press conference announcing the lawsuit.
But before Williams went to the IPRA with his complaint, McKinley and others in the “grass roots black” community began working to bring attention to the story.
“He was so scared and shook about this, we couldn’t find him,” McKinley says of Williams.
His fear wasn’t unreasonable. After complaining to the IPRA, the agency in charge of investigating accusations of police misconduct, including the 176 police-involved shootings that have taken place since 2007, Superintendent McCarthy ignored their recommendation to suspend Evans. In fact, McCarthy did the opposite.
“Rahm Emanuel and McCarthy gave him a promotion after that,” McKinley says incredulously, noting that Evans was promoted to a district commander position after his encounter with Williams. “And nobody done a story on this motherfucker.”
That would soon change, though, thanks to WBEZ Chicago’s investigation and other media attention following the Aug. 24 deaths of Roshad McIntosh, 19, and DeSean Pittman, 17. Both lived in neighborhoods under Evans’ control. And when McKinley and others marched on Evans’ District 11 headquarters, they were 1,000 strong.
“It’s certainly a tragedy that these young men were killed by white police,” McKinley says, mimicking remarks made the day of the march, “but it was a black commander that set the tone for this type of behavior.”
That behavior is brutal, King, Williams, McKinley and others contend. But according to Morrissey, the lawyer who tracks down King when she doesn’t have a cellphone, Evans’ conduct is not only condoned, but at times encouraged.
In addition to suing for excessive force, Morrissey is attempting to hold McCarthy and other top brass in the police department and city government to task for allowing an apparent culture of savagery to run rampant behind the blue wall.
“They promised to give me his promotion papers,” Morrissey says. But the city has balked on that agreement, recently filing a motion that may prevent the release of that paperwork, as well as halting questions Morrissey wants to direct at high-profile cops in a legal environment.
“They don’t want the superintendent coming down to my office to testify about Evans,” he says.
For her part, King has rejected settlement offers pushed her way from the city. The promise of a payday isn’t enough for his client, according to Morrissey.
“She’s standing up and saying police can’t do this to marginalized people,” he says.
Flint Taylor, another Chicago attorney whose office is responsible for compiling two lists of police officers accused of excessive force, and who helped take down the brutal former CPD Commander John Burge, agrees with Morrissey that the problem is an institutional one. Heavy-handed police work like that carried out by Burge and, apparently, Evans, gets results. And sometimes, results are all that matters.
“He’s the African-American Burge,” Taylor says of Evans. “That’s what the superintendent wants, that’s what the mayor countenances. They want the stats, they want to make it look like they’re fighting crime. The method doesn’t matter. The method is doing whatever it takes. Once in a blue moon the disciplinary agency actually recommends that someone’s badge be taken away and that it be suspended. But what’s wrong is it’s coming from the top.”
In a city with its fair share of racial tensions, one might think the meteoric rise of Evans—from street-level gang detective to high-ranking administration member—is representative of an evolving relationship between law enforcement and the black community. Not so, says McKinley.
“Ain’t no white or black when you dealing with the Chicago police,” he says. “The Chicago police is all blue.”
Since being charged criminally for throttling his handgun into Williams’ mouth, Evans has been placed on desk duty, his annual salary of $154,932 intact. Emanuel has skirted questions about Evans, and McCarthy has defended his decision to promote the commander in a statement that read, in part, “The alleged actions, if true, are unacceptable to the residents we serve and to the men and women of this department.” Prior to that, McCarthy said Evans was “probably my favorite among my favorites” and that the commander did “wonderful work.”
Rita King likely would have disagreed with that sentiment when Evans entered the lockup room in back in April 2011. As the other three officers turned their backs, Evans went to work.