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Young Black man killed by police gunfire

By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Contributing Writer | Last updated: Sep 10, 2007 - 12:00:00 PM

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Police say justifiable use of lethal force; family disputes police account

21-year-old Johnny Goodwin

CHICAGO ( - Another young Black man has been gunned down under suspicious circumstances by a member of the Chicago Police Department, while the family of the slain victim searches for answers.

According to the police account of the events that transpired, shortly after midnight on August 22, 2007 6th district police officers approached 21 year-old Johnny Goodwin attempting to question him. He allegedly fled. Police encountered him a few minutes later hiding in a stairwell with a weapon pointed in the direction of the officers. Officers allegedly ordered Mr. Goodwin to drop the gun and when he refused, they discharged their weapons striking him with a fatal wound just under the right arm.
According to police officials, the .38 caliber handgun that Goodwin allegedly pointed at the officers was recovered at the scene. Witnesses reported hearing 5 gunshots, however, none said they saw Mr. Goodwin pointing a weapon at pursuing officers.

“He was not a gun person,” said Janet Goodwin, mother of Johnny Goodwin. “The police were always stopping him because he had braids,” she told The Final Call. “They treat dogs better than they treat our young Black males.”

(top) On August 24, 2007 the Goodwin family and supporters marched to the 6th district police station after protesting the shooting death of 21 year old Johnny Goodwin by a Chicago police officer. (lower) Protesters block traffic at the intersection of 79th and Halsted just down the street from the 6th district headquarters of the Chicago Police Department. Photos: Kenneth Muhammad

On the night of the shooting, even though Ms. Goodwin repeatedly provided her son’s identification card and told police at the scene that it was possible her son was the shooting victim, she was not allowed to actually see the body until three hours after it happened.

On Thursday, August 23, 2007, Minister Abdul Arif Muhammad, editor-in-chief of The Final Call brought condolences and comforting words on behalf of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam to the Goodwin family.

“We are very concerned about what we have heard,” Min. Muhammad told the family. “The message has to go out to the police department that there are too many suspicious murders of our young Black men always considered ‘justifiable’ or using ‘I thought he had a gun’ as an excuse,” he added.

On Friday, August 24, 2007, a march and rally was held in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood where Johnny Goodwin lived and died. Protesters marched to the district police headquarters and blocked traffic for almost 10 minutes.

Auburn-Gresham resident Maya Perkins said she saw a picture of Mr. Goodwin that was taken with Ms. Goodwin’s camera phone upon viewing his body at the morgue. “His eyes were still open, his face looked like someone had beat him up, he looked real bad,” said Ms. Perkins.

In a troubling twist, Mr. Goodwin’s mother was forced to go down to the morgue several hours before the rally and march in order to identify the body of her son a second time. Apparently, the identity information was not transferred from police to the staff at the morgue.

“I had to go back down there today to re-identify the body. You can’t tell me that there isn’t a cover-up,” she said. “I want to know exactly what happened.”

Mr. Goodwin’s sister Joiel who is several months pregnant became incensed and visibly shaken during the protest. She sat down at a bus stop near the protesting crowd crying and screamed, “My mother went down there that (same) night and identified my baby brother,” she said. “They (police) are just trying to cover up the crap that they are doing!” said Joiel.

Queen Sister, founder of It Takes A Village outreach organization said the fact that neither the Chicago Police Department nor Mayor Richard M. Daley has reached out to the Goodwin family shows that the citizens of Chicago are victims of a brutal and out of touch police force.

“No comment, no token of regret or sympathy, no apology, no condolences, flowers or nothing from them because they are numb. In order to express emotion, you have to have some feeling and they are numb,” said the Chicago-area activist.

Queen Sister advanced a theory that the popular gun buyback programs taking place in many cities across America are providing guns for police departments that can be “placed in the hands” of those who are killed by police in order to cover-up wrongful deaths. “Our citizens are falling victim to this system due to crime by design,” she said. “This is a gangster town and this is nothing new.”

The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) of the Chicago Police Department is conducting an investigation into the shooting even though it has already been ruled a justifiable use of force by the Chicago Police Department officials.

The Goodwin family is in communication with the same law firm handling the shooting of 18 year-old Aaron Harrison who was gunned down by police officers on August 6.

Though unable to comment on specifics of the case because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, Area 2 Deputy Chief Tina Skahil, said the Chicago Police Department will use all available resources and would take as long as needed to determine what actually took place on that evening.

“Every investigation is different, therefore, it is driven by the circumstances of the investigation. There is no set time period. The end that you want is an impartial and thorough investigation and however long that takes, that is what is needed and that is what the Office of Professional Standards is in the process of conducting,” she said.

That was no consolation for Mr. Goodwin’s older sister Joiel.

“They are killing our young Black future,” she said.