UPDATE (4/5/12): Howard Morgan was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday by a Chicago judge.
Former BNSF Railway officer Howard Morgan was shot 28 times by police after being pulled over the evening of Feb. 21, 2005, for driving the wrong way down a one-way street with his headlights off.
Police say Morgan drew his sidearm and fired at police, causing them to return fire, hitting Morgan 28 times, but Morgan’s family and protesters aren’t buying the official story.
“Four white officers and one black Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad police man with his weapon on him — around the corner from our home — and he just decided to go crazy? No. That’s ludicrous,” Morgan’s wife, Rosalind Morgan, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital say that Morgan was shot 21 times in the back and seven times in the chest and legs. He underwent multiple surgeries, miraculously survived, and was handcuffed to a hospital bed for two months before being transferred to a local prison.
Morgan was acquitted of aggravated battery and discharging a weapon at a police officer in 2007, but the jury was deadlocked on attempted murder charges.
But the second time around, he was retried, and found guilty, even though there was no evidence of gun residue on Morgan, nor were the original Kevlar vests worn by the officers shown. The second jury was also not allowed to hear that Morgan had already been cleared of two charges, and only three bullets of the 28 removed from Morgan’s body were admitted as evidence.
Morgan will be sentenced Thursday, facing 80 years behind bars, and the judgment won’t come down without uproar. His family is fighting for his freedom using church and advocacy groups to get the word out.
Of course, there are plenty of folks eager to play the race card — Morgan, who is black, was shot by white officers — and for all we know, race may or may not have played a role in the shooting. The Trayvon Martin shooting — an unarmed Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was shot and killed by a 28-year-old man in Florida earlier this year — has heightened awareness of cases like this, and the 24-hour news cycle is flooded with coverage. Not to mention, the NAACP is at the forefront of both fights.
What’s also troubling is the lack of physical evidence from that night, something we take for granted in cases such as this. Obviously, someone’s hiding something. Maybe the police were telling the truth. Maybe they’re lying. It’s sad that we cannot know for sure what happened that night, and sadder that a former cop’s fate depends on whether his peers can’t be certain of the whole story.
With the Trayvon Martin shooting dominating the headlines lately, how do you think cases like this impact our rights as gun owners?