(left to right) Attorney Victor Henderson, Annie Bradford, Activist Mark Clements,
Wallace "Gator" Bradley (behind Congress Davis), Congressman Danny Davis (middle)
Sam Adams Jr (far right)
5:42 p.m. CST, December 28, 2011
CHICAGO (AP) — A U.S. Congressman asked federal authorities on Wednesday to investigate the deaths of two African-American men just three days apart while in custody at the same Chicago police station and during the same shifts.
Lawyers for family members say the November deaths that have been ruled suicides should raise red flags given the city's history of police abuse. There has been just one other suicide in a Chicago police lockup in all of 2011, according to statistics from Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority.
Rep. Danny Davis, a Chicago Democrat, said he wasn't "accusing anyone of anything" but he wants the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago to conduct a thorough investigation. He appeared Wednesday at a news conference with the mother of Develt Bradford, who died Nov. 17. Authorities say the 52-year-old used his pajama bottoms to hang himself.
Three days later, Melvin Woods, 62, was found hanging by his underwear.
"I'm very said, very disappointed in the way my son had to go," said Annie Bradford as she began to cry. "I just want to know what really happened."
Her family's lawyers were less circumspect than the congressman.
Sam Adam Jr. pointed to the case of former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge, who was convicted last year of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in a civil lawsuit when he said he'd never witnessed or participated in the torture of suspects starting in the 1980s. He's serving a 4 1/2-year sentence in federal prison.
"I cannot imagine anything more important than the citizens of this city — especially following what happened with Mr. Burge — to have confidence in their police force. ... We as a society have to have that," he said.
Another Bradford attorney, Victor Henderson, said it was too much of a coincidence that two men would die in similar ways at the same station, on the same shift — both discovered by police at about 1:30 a.m.
"We don't believe it," he said. But he declined to say who or what he thought was responsible for their deaths.
Bradford was a suspect in the November slaying of a grocery store security guard, while Woods was being held on aggravated assault charges, police have said.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton said in a brief e-mailed statement that the department "takes the treatment of its arrestees very seriously." The Independent Police Review Authority, a city agency where civilian investigators look into allegations of police misconduct, are investigating the deaths, she added.
Adam said one focus of any investigation should be on whether there is video footage of Bradford and Woods in their holding areas. He said reports that cameras may not have been working or were turned off in both incidents raised additional questions.
"Is it just a coincidence that this would happen on two separate occasions, three days apart, in probably the same room or same cell or certainly in the same area?" Adam asked.
The Bradford family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Chicago.