About 300 people took to the streets in North Chicago Saturday in a march to demand justice for Darrin Hanna, a local man who died after police punched, tackled and Tasered him during an arrest.
A day after the U.S. Justice Department said it is conducting a preliminary inquiry into Hanna’s death, the marchers chanted for North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham Jr. to be removed from office.
Waving signs that read: “Justice for Darrin,” and “Lies and and Deception cover the naked truth,” the protestors decried what they said has been a cover-up of the incident that began last November when police responded to a call that Hanna, was beating a pregnant woman. Hanna, 45, died a week later on Nov. 13.
Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Hanna's mother, Gloria Carr, in leading the march on Saturday.
During a rally at North Chicago City Hall, Jackson drew a parallel between the Hanna investigation and the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, whose death at the hands of neighborhood watch group member George Zimmerman has sparked nationwide protests.
“We had Trayvon in Florida, and now Darrin in North Chicago,” Jackson said.
Juan Rivera, who spent 19 years in prison for the rape and murder of a Waukegan girl before being exonerated through DNA, also addressed the crowd. “Today it stops,” Rivera said.
Along with community outrage, news of Hanna’s death has unleashed a wave of other brutality claims against police, ultimately leading to the retirement of North Chicago police chief Mike Newsome.
But Lake County prosecutors have declined to charge the seven officers involved in Hanna’s arrest, saying they acted “reasonably and appropriately.”
Lake County’s coroner ruled that Hanna died of multiple factors, including chronic cocaine abuse, high blood pressure, kidney problems, sickle cell trait, physical restraint and Taser shocks.
The federal inquiry will determine whether a more formal investigation is warranted, said Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.
Mayor Rockingham said he welcomed the attention from federal investigators.
“Hopefully, whatever conclusion they come to will bring some resolution and possibly calm the community,” he said.
Since the conclusion of a state police investigation and the prosecutors’ ruling last month, additional evidence has become public.
In police recordings from the scene, an anguished Hanna can be heard pleading, “Put me down, please, I was down,” while an officer tells him, “You are OK ... relax.”
Attorneys for Hanna’s family have sued the city over his death.
They said the recordings show Hanna was cooperative, still conscious and understandable after being arrested, though he was barely conscious and unintelligible by the time he was carried out of his apartment on a stretcher.
In January, Rockingham hired Robert Johnson, a retired Illinois State Police regional commander, to investigate whether officers violated department policy in the Hanna case and whether claims of excessive police force in five other cases are valid.
The mayor would not comment on the significance of the police recordings, which were not addressed in the state police report. In the last week, he said, Johnson has re-interviewed the officers involved to ask them about what was heard in those recordings.
Rockingham added that he hoped the city’s internal report would be made public in the next week, along with whatever disciplinary action that interim Police Chief James Jackson may recommend.
Robert McCoppin is a staff reporter; Susan Berger is a freelance reporter.
Tribune reporter John Byrne contributed.