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Agenor Román Found "Not Guilty"

Police Frame-Up Exposed
by Caryl Sortwell |
May 1, 2000
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(Fight Back! Stephanie Weiner)
Family members of Agenor "Hunito" Román demonstrating for justice. (Fight Back! Stephanie Weiner)

Chicago, IL - On April 6, a jury of twelve women and men told the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office that they didn't buy their story about a police shooting last happened last June 10th. Community members from the Lathrop Homes housing projects and anti-police brutality activists are now celebrating the verdict in the Agenor Roman case, though the jury's decision is a partial victory.

Agenor "Junito" Román was charged with assault on a police officer and possession of a firearm on public housing property. The jury deliberated for over four hours and returned with a verdict of "not guilty" on the assault charge and "guilty" on the weapons possession charge. Had Junito been found guilty on the first charge he could be facing up to 15 years in prison. The weapons possession charge carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in prison; Junito has already been in jail for 10 months awaiting trial. He is expected to be released shortly after his sentencing hearing on May 4.

The prosecutors story to the jury was that Junito had been a part of a group of gang members that had threatened a Lathrop Homes woman, fired on police and then fled into hiding on June 10. Then, according to a claim by Chicago Police Officer Dean Clason, Junito hid behind a doorway and pointed a gun at him. Clason shot at Junito 4 times, striking him once, nearly killing him.

Lathrop Homes residents who took the stand as witnesses revealed the real story of what happened that night. Junito had been outside of his aunt's apartment admiring the new decorations on a witness's bicycle. When shots rang out everybody ran for cover. Junito, who suffers from cerebral palsy, hurried as fast as his disability would allow - hiding in a nearby hallway. When Officer Clason saw Junito behind the doorway he shot him and then, according to one witness, dropped his gun exclaiming, "I shot the wrong one!" Police, who arrived at the scene shortly thereafter, were overheard by another witness to say, "There's no gun, you better find one." The "drop gun" that was eventually "found" had neither Junito's fingerprints nor his blood on it. Another man was arrested days later for the incident that started the whole thing.

The State's case presented cop after cop that backing up each others' stories. Not one single community member testified on behalf of the police. Officer Clason proudly testified that for shooting Junito he received a Medal of Honor for "Bravery in the Line of Duty".

In his closing argument, State's Attorney Joe Cataldo stated that Junito was "the poster boy for lack of respect of authority." He compared him to the Columbine High School shooters, and suggested that Junito was responsible for the drugs and violence at Lathrop Homes. The jury didn't buy it. After reviewing all the evidence presented by Junito's attorney, William Murphy, and listening to the witnesses located by Centro Sin Fronteras and Neighbors Against Police Brutality, they decided that the police were not to be believed.

Junito's father, Agenor Roman, Sr., said, "We will keep on fighting. We want the lesser charge overturned on appeal." The community wants Officer Clason and the other police that framed Junito fired and prosecuted. Mr. Roman spoke for many in the Black, Puerto Rican and Mexicano communities when he said, "This has to end. We can't live with the police terrorizing us."

Caryl Sortwell is a member of Neighbors Against Police Brutality.

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