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Rent a U-Haul and take a bullet

RENT-A-UHAULRent a U-Haul and take a bullet

      CHICAGO, IIL. ( — Let me begin by saying that I am a retired Chicago Public Schools teacher that was nearly murdered by the Chicago Police on the night of July 27. Before I begin the details as to what occurred, I must start by saying that a few years ago I taught in the community of West Englewood in Chicago. While serving as the eighth grade graduation coordinator, one of my duties was to find a speaker for the event. I decided to contact the District Commander. He was delighted and set out to meet the students beforehand.

On the day of the Commander’s arrival, I was startled by the reactions of my personable and energetic students who had suddenly become sullen and standoffish. As he walked around the room extending his hands to meet them and trying to engage in conversations, the students stood huddled in corners silently with their backs turned towards him. Many would not shake his hand. These children, who were often effervescent at times, showed anger at this uniformed man they had never previously met. Even Chris, our class comedian, turned his head to avoid facing him as he reluctantly shook the Commander’s hand. Besides being embarrassed, I didn’t understand why they showed such disrespect. You see, I hadn’t worked in that community very long, so I wasn’t aware of all the dynamics of living there.

After the Commander left, I decided to have a discussion with the students. The conversation was intense with nearly all of them telling me about their experiences of being harassed and intimidated by the police. Having members of my family in the military and law enforcement, I told them that perhaps some policemen needed to show aggression towards known violent criminals in the neighborhood. But clearly, these middle school kids should not be the aim of police aggression.

These were college bound students who are not the norm of what the media highlights in Englewood. And as the conversations continued, what some of the students had experienced were physical acts of violence as well as intimidation with no regard to their constitutional rights. I now understood their behavior toward the Commander who was the symbol of the abuse they saw daily by living in Englewood.

As I previously stated, I’m from a family of police and military personnel. Basically, I abide by the laws and empathize with the duties of the police. But on that Wednesday night, while driving a rented U-Haul, I got a dose of the abuse and cruelty of some Chicago policemen.

It all started when I noticed a police car following me while driving northbound on Martin Luther King Drive. When I made a right turn, another police vehicle heading east followed the aforementioned. I thought to myself, they are really patrolling this community. As I approached a street signaling to turn left, a west-bound unmarked car slowed to a stop and I assumed that it was allowing me to turn left out of courtesy. I began turning left and then suddenly, the car’s lights began to flash and it sped up and drove towards the van. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting it and I saw more police vehicles move close to the van. These police officers got out of their vehicles and moved towards the van with their guns out and pointed at us.

“Hands up! Put your hands up! My sixteen year old niece and young helper shouted at me. “Anybody in the back?” the one officer commandingly asked. The young male helper had been laying in the cabin area of the van. “Get out of the car!” My niece and young helper got out of the van and were handcuffed behind the back by another officer. “What did we do? Why are you all doing this to us?” I heard them say.

“I better see your hands higher.” The officer said to me all the while with his gun pointed in the direction of my head. He was at the front of the van and I had my hands near the steering wheel. There was an uneasiness to this, after all, my foot was still on the brakes. I distinctly thought to put the transmission in park and gazed slightly downward, and that officer now aimed his gun towards my chest. “I’m gonna shoot you.” he said. “I need to put it in park!” I shouted. Two of the policemen then moved to the driver’s door, both had guns out with the one still pointing in the direction of my head. The one opened the door and watched as I placed the van in park. The other officer ordered me to the side of the van and followed behind me with the gun pointed at my head. Clearly, I had no weapon, and as a small woman, I was no match to his towering physique, but he still felt the need to keep the gun on me.

“What did we do?” I asked. “Look at the van, don’t turn, just keep your hands on the van,” he ordered. I saw another officer go through the purse and belongings of my niece and our helper. The young man was very upset and was arguing with one of the officers. It was getting very heated and I was still asking, “Why am I being stopped?” One officer said, “I am going to handcuff you and take you to the station.” There were no explanations of what we did wrong.

As my hands were pressed on the van, I thought of many things. One of those things that flashed for a second was how my students must have felt. Then I remembered that my sister, a police officer, told me if you’re ever pulled over, to get their badge numbers and names. “Could I have your name and badge number sir?” I asked. “You better not step away from that van.” he stated.

“Yeah, could I have your badge number?” the young helper repeated while facing an officer. “Your dumb ass can’t remember five numbers,” the officers retorted. And this caused more inflamed rhetoric from the young man.

Some people on the sidewalk moved towards the street and asked the police what was going on. One officer shouted at the onlookers to get back. More people came out and two officers told them not to come near the street. All of the cars were now blocking the streets. Then one of the officers approached me and told me to come to his car. He was calm and said that he wanted to hear my explanation as to why I had this van, and he advised me that it was reported stolen by U-Haul. Finally, I found out why we were stopped.

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