Champaign council hears accusations against police
CHAMPAIGN -- Usually a docile place, the Champaign City Council chambers on Tuesday night forced Mayor Don Gerard to recess the meeting while he made a decision whether to hear from speakers concerned about the alleged police beating of a black teenager.
Voices bellowed from the audience section, particularly that of activist Martel Miller, who says his son was the victim of a police attack and excessive force after a chase.
"He ran because he was scared of the police," Miller yelled. "The kids should not be scared of the police."
A public comment period was not listed on the agenda, a fact that was not received well by audience members who wanted to speak. The mood in the chambers quickly became tense, and Gerard recessed the meeting while he consulted with city administrators.
The council eventually allowed audience members to address the alleged beating. Many wore yellow tags that said, "I stand with Calvin Miller," who appeared at the meeting on crutches.
Calvin Miller did not say much, but Martel Miller said city officials need to deal with several "rogue officers."
"Champaign kids in the African-American community should not be scared of the police," Miller said.
The comments focused on the alleged attack, but a persistent theme was that the speakers wanted city officials to cultivate more trust between the city's police department and the black community.
Otis Noble III, a friend of Martel Miller's, said he moved to Champaign a few years ago to work at the University of Illinois and was troubled by what he saw.
"This hits too close to home," Noble said.
Donte Lotts pointed to a photo of Calvin Miller taken after the alleged beating.
"This disturbs me," Lotts said. "I have never seen a frown on this young man's face in all the years I've known him."
He said the city needs to do more to show kids in the community how to interact with police.
"Each time we have an incident like this, we take three or four steps backwards, and we need to be more proactive," Lotts said.
The story documented by justice officials differs somewhat from what speakers told the council on Tuesday night.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Calvin Miller, 18, of the 1000 block of South Duncan Road, was spotted by an officer about 1:30 a.m. Monday as he sped out of the University Village apartment complex in the 2000 block of North Moreland Boulevard, ran over a curb, and allegedly ran a red light at the intersection of Moreland and Marketview Drive.
The officer, who had his lights and sirens activated, followed the van that Miller was driving south on Neil Street and continued following it to the intersection of Greenbriar and Arcadia drives, where the officer saw the driver's door open. While the van was moving at about 15 mph, the driver, later identified as Calvin Miller, jumped from it. The van continued on and hit the front of a house in the 200 block of Arcadia, damaging the front steps and handrail, Rietz said.
After a brief foot chase, during which Miller allegedly jumped a fence, the officer caught up with and tackled Miller in a yard on Brookwood Drive. Another officer joined in and the two wrestled with Miller, Rietz said. He complied after one of the officers sprayed him with pepper spray.
Rietz said when interviewed, Miller told the officer that his father, Martel Miller, told him he was not required to stop for police and to keep driving and call him, which he said he was trying to do. Rietz said officers described the younger Miller as "very apologetic."
He was charged with resisting arrest and criminal damage to property, both misdemeanors.
Rietz said she obtained a copy of the videotape taken from inside the squad car to verify what the officers had written in their reports.
Miller was released from custody after posting bond.