Protest held outside Austin woman’s house after police visit

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Residents upset about the way Chicago Police served a warrant on the house of a disabled Austin woman protested on her porch last Saturday. The group said authorities mishandled the situation earlier this month, while the Chicago Police Department said officers were just doing their job.

Essie Carter, a 57-year old disabled woman confined to a wheelchair, owns the house located in the 900 block of North Waller Avenue. She said police treated her with disrespect and made her walk down her nine front-porch steps although she hasn’t walked alone in over 20 years. Carter said officers screamed at her to hurry up and get her “ass” off the porch.

Marie Sommerio, a neighbor of Carter’s for 22 years, said the police were blaring a PA-system and had armed officers throughout the block. She said it was a chaotic scene, with officers yelling at everyone.

“I looked out the window and saw the police yelling at Essie (Carter) to get off the porch, but she ain’t never go down the stairs by herself,” she said.

“She stood and was shaking so hard, and I grabbed a white chair from a porch, and I said, ‘Please let me help her’ and they put the guns on me. I told them she’s had strokes, and the officer said, ‘We know, get back in the house.’”

Essie Carter says police broke windows June 6th while searching her house for guns. (Photo/Kelsey Duckett)

The police went to Carter’s home after  officers at the 25th District received a tip. A search warrant was issued  June 5 to Officer Brian Dorsch after he filed documents with the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The search warrant was for Marcus T. Jones, who’s wanted in connection with a murder, and gave officers permission to search the house on Waller, a single-family residence that was his last known address. The warrant also gave officers the authority to search for and seize a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, a 9mm tec-9 machine pistol and a 357 revolver handgun.

The search warrant was carried out the morning of June 6 at Carter’s house, which she has owned since 1995. Jones is Carter’s nephew and was paroled at the residence three years ago. But according to Carter and neighbors, he does not currently live at the home.

Sgt. Tim Weiglein of the 25th District said complaints after search warrants are common because people are upset at the situation.

“I understand their frustration and emotion,” he said. “But I can’t offer any help to them. We got guns and narcotics off the street conducting that search warrant, and that is our job.”

Carter said she was terrified, struggled breathing and doesn’t remember a lot about that morning. Fighting back tears, she said, “I was so scared.”

Elce Redmond of the South Austin Coalition said the protest was not about the guns or the search warrant, but about the treatment of Carter and her neighbors.

“The language the police used against Carter and the other neighbors is a big issue,” he said. “We are talking about an elderly, disabled woman. There is no reason for the treatment of the police officers, it was unwarranted and it really hurts the progress that the West Side neighborhood has made with the authorities.”

Weiglein, who wasn’t on scene when the search warrant was carried out, said he can’t speak about the professionalism of the officers, but he said serving a search warrant puts a lot of stress on the officers involved.

Essie Carter, the owner of this house in the 900 block of North Waller, wants federal officials to investigate whether her civil rights were violated. (Photo/Kelsey Duckett)

“Carrying out search warrants is a highly intense situation because of the variables,” he said. “Each situation is different. But when you know guns are on premises and the safety of the officers is at risk, it makes for a tense environment. The officers out there on Sunday were doing their job.”

Bob Vondrasek, executive director of the South Austin Coalition, said one of the most important issues on the West Side is the relationship between the community and police, and this type of activity is a major setback.

“This kind of event, this kind of setback, is detrimental to the progress we are making in building relationships with the community and the police,” he said. “The officers goofed up some good police work by treating the people in the community disrespectfully and with no sensitivity.

“We have to stop this kind of relationship in the African-American community. The relationship between the police and the residents has to be better.”

Weiglein confirmed that Jones had been arrested and was being held. He said three guns and marijuana was obtained from the residence. Jones, who wasn’t in the house at the time of the search warrant, showed up when neighbors called hi

“We did our job to get guns and drugs off the streets,” the office said. “And that is what we did.”

Carter, along with neighbors and the South Austin Coalition, is asking for a public apology; reimbursement for the damaged property and belongings; and an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice about whether Carter’s civil rights were violated.

Weiglein said Carter and her neighbors can direct any complaints to the City Clerk’s Office in Room 107 at City Hall, or call 312-744-6871.

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