Chicago Warriors: Under The Bridge

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The first week back at work was taxing on me. I guess that I wasn't as physically prepared as I thought, and the midnight shift was tough to get used to again. Not only that, but I had several court appearances, traffic and criminal, to attend. It seemed like my days and nights were full. I was cleared to resume my normal workouts-wow, I had lost my edge there as well. After the first couple of weight sessions at Xav's, I cut it back to every other day, until my strength returned. I felt like the skinny kid you see on his first day at the gym.

Marilyn was considerate; she barely talked about her workouts even though it was evident by looking at her that she was doing some serious heavy lifting. If I had to guess, she was close to being ready for another bodybuilding competition. We eased back into our routine on the Tac Team as we rolled into late summer. The 8th District was a busy place and provided us with plenty of opportunities to hone our skills.

It was the last week in August. Kids were bored by now with vacation and most were ready for the return to school. Just before they go back, there always seems to be an uptick in juvenile activity on the street-burglaries, vehicle break-ins and joy rides.

Marilyn and I had reviewed the crime reports at the station and noticed that there seemed to be a pattern developing at Marquette Park. It showed that juvies were congregating there around midnight and beyond to sell and smoke dope. We thought that it would be a good idea to work that problem to see if we couldn't grab a couple of sellers at least. If not, we would at least let them know that the cops knew what was going on.

"So, what's our game plan here Pete," asked Marilyn as we turned into the east side of the park.
"The reports said that on at least two occasions these kids were hanging out under the bridge on Kedzie. I think that we'll park the car over by the running track and then go on foot. When we get close, I'll cross over on top of Kedzie to the west side while you stay on the east-they'll all be boxed in on the foot bridge."

Marilyn looked at me and said, "Pete you need to heading up a squad of soldiers. That was a brilliant plan of attack."

"Whatever," I said. "But we may get over there and find that no one's around too."

I parked the car and we left on foot toward the bridge that passes underneath Kedzie Avenue. As we got closer, we turned off our radios so that we wouldn't alert anyone that may be there.

Marilyn stopped just shy of the turn to go underneath. "Pete, I hear voices..." she whispered.
"Give me a minute to get over to the other end of the path. When you hear me yell, ‘Police' make your move."
"Okay Pete."

I hurried over to the other side, took a peek down the path, then turned on my flashlight and made my move... "Police!"

A flurry of activity ensued as Marilyn and I converged toward the middle, corralling seven young boys and girls.
"Everybody face the wall and put your hands on it," I barked. There were two females in the group; we had them move toward Marilyn's side."
"Cover me Pete."

Marilyn started to go through the two girls while I kept watch on the others.

"They're clean partner," she said
She placed them both back on the wall and we switched duties. My first kid was young, maybe 14, he was shaking with fear but other than the smell of marijuana on him he was clean. The next two kids each had joints in their pockets; they were each 15 and 16. The last two looked older, maybe 17 or 19. The 19 year old was definitely giving attitude; maybe he had been through this before and was probably showing off for the younger ones.
"What's this?" I asked as I pulled a wad of cash from his pants pocket.

"I just got paid man," he said.
I leaned in close to him and said, "Let's start this out right my friend. You will refer to me as either ‘sir' or ‘officer,' not man. Understood?"
"Yes sir," he replied.

"Now what about the roll of money?"
"Sir it's not mine," he said. "I have to give it to someone in the morning..."

He went on to tell me that he was working for an older guy in the neighborhood. The boy's friend next to him was holding the marijuana stash; the "coke" was up under the bridge.
We called a wagon and brought them all into the station to sort everything out. A couple of hours later, we had the dicks in the Juvenile Division handling those under 16, and our guy with the wad of money turned out to be the only adult-17 years of age.

"So Matthew," started Marilyn, "What you don't realize is that you aren't going home tonight. You are considered an adult now, which means that you are going to be held in the lockup unless you can post bond. Can your folks come up with a thousand dollars by morning?"

The kid looked scared. He obviously hadn't played this game before. His rap sheet only showed a couple curfew violations and a shoplifting charge during his juvenile days. He had no idea what he had gotten himself involved in.
"My mom works midnights cleaning office buildings," he said. "She barely has enough money to pay the rent and food bill. My dad's an alcoholic; he's hardly ever home, and when he is he hits mom up for money so's he can go get drunk again."

Marilyn and I looked at each other...
"Pete, come out in the hall for a minute."
We kept the boy handcuffed to the wall in the interrogation room while we talked.
"What do you think Pete, should we go to bat for this kid?"

"Marilyn I think that we should. This kid's at a critical juncture in his life. He's just turned legal as far as the criminal justice system is concerned. If we can get him to change now, we may save him from a lifetime of heartache for himself and his mom."

"Tell you what," she said. "I don't have class tomorrow. He's definitely going to sit tonight and go to court in the morning. I'll go to the prelim and talk with the State's Attorney about a deal if this kid gives up the information on who he's selling the dope for."

"That's a great idea Marilyn. See if you can't get the kid an "I" bond as well, since his mother doesn't have the means to bail him out. If he sits in the County Jail for any length of time, he's dead meat."

"You're right about," she said. "They'll tear a young kid like Matthew apart in there. I think it's the right thing to do."

"Okay," I said. "Let's go back in there and tell Matthew the facts of life."

That morning Marilyn arrived at 26th & California, the largest Criminal Court Building in the country. A person could easily become lost in this huge, cavernous structure with its high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows, and its judges' benches on raised platforms. It truly sends a message to all defendants that they are but mere specs under the judicial magnifying glass. Over the years the expansive halls and wide stairwells have seen their share of escape attempts by prisoners gasping for freedom's fresh air.

Marilyn was to meet with Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Al Malinchak to discuss Matthew's case. As she walked through the marble tiled hallway, a woman was waiting by the courtroom door, "Officer, may I speak with you?"

She was short and skinny, with a worn look that didn't quite fit with a 30 something woman. Marilyn thought to herself that this woman has seen much sorrow and hardship.
"How can I help you ma'am?"

"Are you Officer Benson?" she asked.
"Yes I am."

"I'm here for my son Matthew. I'm Kathy Roberts; when can I see him?" she asked.
"Nice to meet you ma'am: Matthew is being held in the lockup until his case is called. At that time the judge will determine his bond."

The woman looked tired and dejected. "There's no way that I can bail him out," she said. "I have absolutely no money saved. My paycheck is spent before I even get it, and what little I try to save my husband takes to spend on booze. I've told him that I don't love him anymore, but he forces himself on me and then I don't see him for days."

Marilyn took her by the hand and led her to a bench along the wall. "I'm sorry about your predicament. Matthew has serious problems here; he was caught with marijuana and there was also cocaine involved, although not technically in his possession, it was in the area where he was arrested."

"Oh God," the woman sighed.
"Before you lose hope," said Marilyn, "let me explain something. "Matthew is basically a good kid. We checked his juvenile record and he has only a couple of minor arrests-nothing very serious. I think that we can make this incident a pivotal point in his life. I'm here to tell the court that your son has agreed to work with us to get the people that got him involved in selling drugs. His cooperation, along with this being his first arrest as an adult, I hope will allow the judge to look favorably upon Matthew's rehabilitation. I believe in your son Mrs. Roberts, and I'm confident that we can get him back on track."

Looking somewhat relieved, the boy's mother asked, "But what about the bond? Where will I get the money?"
"I hope that the prosecutor can convince the judge that your son is not a flight risk, nor a danger to the community-we'll ask for an ‘I Bond,' one that requires only a signature. But you will also have to testify that you are willing to ensure that Matthew will show up for his next court date. And at any time after his release should he get into trouble, he will go right back to jail until the court date."

"Thank you Officer for your help, and I hope that your faith in my boy is not misplaced."
Marilyn got up from the bench. "My partner will make sure that Matthew understands the chance that he is being given. He intends to keep a close eye on your son; in fact he has a plan to put him to work so that he doesn't have the time to get in trouble."

"That would be the answer to my prayers" she said. "I work all night and can't keep track of him. You and your partner are Heaven sent..."

"Maybe not sent from Heaven, but we certainly keep in touch," said Marilyn. "I'll see you inside in a little while."

As she walked to State's Attorney Malinchak's office she said a silent prayer. "Dear Father, one of your flock was lost, but now is found. Help us to rejoice, fill his soul with your love and presence. Help us to bring Matthew back into your light."

     Next: Tommy and Lisa
Previous: On The Mend

John Wills spent 2 years in the U.S. Army before serving 12 years with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). He left the CPD to become an FBI Special Agent, working organized crime, violent crime, and drugs.  John Wills is an author of Chicago Warriors: Midnight Battles in the Windy City published by

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