Chicago: The Unusual Arrest of Officer Pace

Revolutionary Worker #899, March 23, 1997

"I would like to just say for the record, the CHA is trying to do anything and everything to take the blame off of this man for pulling out his gun and shooting down my sister in cold blood. And these are the facts: He shot her, she has four children. And she is fighting for her life." -- Venus Royal

On March 10, the CHA cop Roland Pace was arrested, one week after he shot down Shaunnay Royal in cold blood. Pace was charged with two counts of official misconduct and aggravated battery--he faces a possible 6- to 30-year sentence. The court set a $250,000 bond.

Richard Downs of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police quickly said that the charges had "shocked everybody." Up until then, Pace and the other cops who shot on March 4 had been cocky and confident of protection. After all, how often do cops get charged for shooting down residents in public housing projects?

This arrest was surprising, unusual and revealing.

For a full week, the authorities had been upholding Pace and the police shootings of March 4--then suddenly the state's attorney came out with felony indictments.

For a week, CHA Police Chief LeRoy O'Shield had insisted that Pace's gun "discharged accidentally," shooting Shaunnay while Pace was supposedly defending himself from "a mob." O'Shield insisted he saw no reason to even suspend Pace from duty--saying Pace's record was "clean." Now, suddenly, O'Shield appeared on TV saying that he did not object to charging Roland Pace.

How had this happened?

The system had been put on the defensive by the intense resistance by the people of Cabrini Green and by widespread outrage over these shootings.

On March 4 the police had swaggered into Cabrini Green and started brutalizing the youth--as they constantly do. But this day, the people of Cabrini Green had met every outrage of the police with resistance. Shaunnay and her relatives had faced up to Roland Pace. When Pace responded by shooting Shaunnay, the people had gathered to protest and denounce the brutality. When the police opened fire wildly, people had responded with gunfire of their own. Right under the guns of the rampaging police, residents had jumped in front of the TV cameras, demanding that their story be told.

Suddenly, thanks to the boldness and intensity of this resistance, millions of people could see for themselves how people of Cabrini Green are treated day after day. For days the authorities tried to cover up their crimes. They tried to lie, to excuse and to justify. But they were too exposed, too much had come out.

The incident was so raw that even various politicians jumped out to criticize the police. Congressman Bobby Rush (a former Black Panther) criticized Mayor Daley's defense of the police shootings--in what looked like the opening shot of Rush's mayoral campaign. Alderman Walter Burnett was active throughout the week, loudly warning that the authorities couldn't keep a lid on events without taking steps to meet the people's demands.

Finally, under pressure, the state's attorney decided to take the extremely unusual step of charging Roland Pace.

Moves to Uphold the Chicago Police and Destroy Cabrini

"If a resident would have shot a cop, that person would be in jail for life. No questions asked. He would be in jail for life--if he lived to get to jail." -- A resident told the RW

Pace was indicted. But he was not charged with attempted murder--as he should have been. He has not been removed or even suspended from the CHA police. In fact he is reportedly on "administrative leave"--which amounts to paid vacation pending trial.

Meanwhile important forces in the power structure are stepping forward to defend Pace and uphold the right of police to shoot people. CHA police were mobilized to attend Pace's hearing. Richard Downs of the Fraternal Order of Police said, "Officer Pace is an exceptional human being and a wonderful policeman."

While Shaunnay is back in the hospital--reportedly suffering from intense pains, the police worked to raise money to spring Pace on bail. Now such forces will try to get Pace acquitted--they will try to use the coming trial to publicly reaffirm the right of police to shoot people in cold blood.

Meanwhile the authorities and the mainsteam media are saying that one possible "solution" to the current crisis in Cabrini is to replace the CHA police in the housing projects with the regular Chicago police.

This is ridiculous. And it is no solution at all! First of all, after Pace shot Shaunnay, the Chicago cops opened fire on the 534 building on March 4--shooting three people! Are people supposed to forget that?

Mayor Daley openly praised his cops for shooting into the apartments of Cabrini's 534 building. He accused the CHA police of being cowards--for leaving the scene, rather than joining in the shooting spree! That should make it clear what oppressed people can expect if Daley's regular police re-occupy Cabrini Green.

Meanwhile powerful forces have made it clear that they intend to press forward for the complete destruction of Cabrini Green--destroying a long-standing community and threatening thousands of people with homelessness. An editorial in the Real Estate section of the Chicago Tribune said, "Sure, this is a higher-income versus lower-income issue, and in many ways a white versus minority issue as well. forces will soon say good riddance to Cabrini. And last week's news only adds ammunition to the inevitable."

The city authorities' plans to destroy Cabrini Green have long been driven by naked greed and their fear of large concentrations of poor, Black people. They may have indicted Roland Pace for shooting Shaunnay Royal, but the system's real intentions are on display: They have no intention of giving the people real justice.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.) 3