William Stewart Boyd drove to a South Side church 13 years ago to turn over his late father’s handgun to Chicago police as part of a buyback program aimed at keeping derelict firearms off the streets.
A Cook County judge in domestic relations cases, Boyd expected the weapon to be inventoried and destroyed like thousands of others over the years. He was wrong.
Instead, the gun mysteriously turned up eight years later next to the body of a young man shot to death by a Cicero police officer. The cop – with a history of discipline problems – is now off the force collecting a disability pension because of post-traumatic stress from the incident.
But it is the life and times of Boyd’s Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver, serial number J515268, that is raising new questions about potential police malfeasance that stretches across city lines.
The Chicago Police Department has launched an internal affairs investigation after learning from the Better Government Association that a gun it was supposed to have destroyed instead turned up at the scene of a police shooting, the latest episode in a widespread problem with confiscated guns disappearing from police custody.
And after five years of contentious litigation in the federal civil rights case over the shooting, Cicero officials are now poised to write a $3.5 million settlement check to members of the dead man’s family who claim police planted the gun to cover up an unjustified shooting. The Cicero Town Council agreed this July to approve the settlement and is expected to take a final vote soon.
Underlying both developments is a central question: How did the gun of Boyd’s father find its way from what was supposed to be a locked Chicago Police custody room to a tiny patch of pavement next to the body of 22-year-old Latin Counts gang member Cesar A. Munive.
Boyd, a judge for nearly 20 years, is understandably upset that his gun was involved in someone’s death.
“I’m doing the right thing and in the process, someone didn’t do what they were supposed to do,” Boyd said in an interview with the BGA. “That calls into question the process — what’s happening after you turn these weapons in?”
In a June 29 affidavit filed as part of a federal lawsuit in the case, Boyd detailed his history with the gun, including how he purchased it 40 years ago so his father would feel safer.
The allegations that it ended up a police “throw down” is one Cicero police have adamantly denied in court filings.
Munive — who had a rap sheet including convictions for sexual abuse of a minor, battery and unlawful use of a weapon — was shot dead by Cicero Police officer Don Garrity in a residential neighborhood on July 5, 2012, records show.
Garrity and another officer had just responded in separate patrol cars to reports of a gang fight, and spotted Munive riding a bicycle away from the police arriving at the scene.
According to reports from the investigation, Garrity said he got out of his squad car and chased Munive on foot to the northeast corner of 13th Street and South 57th Avenue.
That’s when Garrity said he saw Munive aim the gun at the windshield of the white, unmarked squad car that was driven by the other officer, Dominic Schullo. Garrity told investigators he ordered the young man to drop the gun, Munive (pictured below) refused, and the officer opened fire.
Neither Garrity nor Schullo responded to requests for comment for this report. Schullo is the son of a former Cicero police chief who served prison time for a corruption conviction.
During the investigation, Schullo backed up his colleague’s story. In one interview with state police just days after the shooting, Schullo dramatically described to investigators “staring straight down the barrel of the handgun” in Munive’s left hand.
“He was gonna shoot me through the window,” Schullo told Cicero police. “If it wasn’t for Garrity, he would have shot me right through the glass!”
The bullet pierced Munive’s right lung, according to the autopsy. As he struggled to breathe, he complained to police that “it burns,” records show. He died of a gunshot wound to the back, the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled.
In a recent interview with the BGA, Garrity’s attorney Craig Tobin denied the lawsuit’s allegation that Cicero police planted the gun on Munive. He claimed that Munive was given the gun by another member of the Latin Counts gang.
Jon Loevy, the Munive family attorney, has a dramatically different theory, asserting that Garrity shot an unarmed man and the gun was planted by police to cover up an unjustified shooting. BGA attorney Matt Topic works for Loevy’s firm but has no connection to the case and was not consulted for this story.
Loevy said the gun’s journey clearly raised questions about what happened after Boyd handed it over to Chicago police as part of the gun buyback program.
“Our guy is dead, we can’t ask him, but we do know it was last seen in the possession of law enforcement,” Loevy said.
Not until nearly two years after Munive’s death did state police ask for a federal trace of the gun. That trace, by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, identified Boyd as one who bought it from an Oak Lawn dealer in 1977.
|Don Garrity (Sun-Times)|
The Illinois State Police and Cicero each said it was the other’s responsibility to investigate the history of the gun. But that didn’t matter anyway because Munive had it, according to Matt Boerwinkle, a state police spokesman, who says his agency stands by its findings that Munive pointed the gun at Garrity before being shot.
“Anybody could allege anything after the fact and file a lawsuit,” Boerwinkle said of the allegations the gun was planted near Munive’s body by police.
Based on the state police findings, the Cook County state’s attorney’s office closed its review of the shooting with a letter that read in part: “We have completed our review of the matter and found no conduct by the officer which would give rise to criminal charges.”
Boyd told the BGA he was not contacted by police about the gun — only by private investigators and attorneys from both sides connected to the lawsuit.
|Cook County Judge Boyd (YouTube)|
In his affidavit, Boyd described giving the gun to plainclothes Chicago police officers, who wore their badges and guns on their belts. In exchange, he was given a prepaid VISA card for less than $100.
Chicago police recover thousands of guns every year, many through buyback programs but also many that are seized during arrests. So far this year, Chicago police said they have confiscated more than 5,000 guns. And gun buybacks from 2006 to 2012 yielded more than 23,000 weapons, according to a 2013 audit of the gun buyback program by Chicago’s inspector general.
Hundreds of such guns mysteriously disappeared in the past decade from police agencies nationwide from Florida to California, Alabama to Michigan, according to published reports. Suburban Chicago police departments in Harvey, Elmwood Park, and Dolton have all had guns vanish in recent years.
And long before Boyd’s gun disappeared from custody, a different city audit showed the Chicago Police Department lost track of more than 130 guns stored at an evidence warehouse in the 1990s, news reports show. Four guns that were stored at the warehouse were later seized during arrests.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi described the latest case as “extremely abnormal and troublesome…”
“We are opening an internal affairs investigation today to trace this gun, verify that it was taken into police custody during a turn in and investigate how it possibly ended up back on the street,” he said.
Garrity left the department a little more than two years ago after he developed post-traumatic stress disorder, said Jerry Marzullo, the attorney for Cicero’s Police Pension Board.
After the shooting, he was promoted from patrol officer to detective. He left making $84,707 annually, nearly $27,000 more than he did as a patrol officer. That pay hike boosted his annual disability payments to $55,000.
Cicero Town Attorney Mike Del Galdo said Garrity went on disability after depositions in the lawsuit revealed he omitted key facts about his work history when he first applied for a post with the Cicero police.
Before joining the Cicero force, Garrity resigned as a Berwyn police officer in May 2008 after he was arrested by North Riverside Police who pursued him in his own private car on an early morning high speed chase down Cermak Road.
Records show Garrity, while still on the Berwyn force, also was once investigated for violating orders by wielding a high-powered rifle during a felony traffic stop.
“This police officer should not have been a police officer,” said Loevy, the Munive family attorney. “They are going to pay a substantial settlement as a result of this…shooting.”