Families call for probe into alleged jail suicides

December 28, 2011 7:02:06 PM PST
Attorneys are calling for a Justice Department investigation into the alleged suicides of two men who reportedly hanged themselves inside a South Side police lockup.

There are video cameras in police lockups and jail guards make frequent walk-throughs. That doesn't always prevent an arrestee from harming himself or someone else if he's determined to do so. But two suicides by hanging within three days in the same area lockup at the same time of day at the very least raises questions and for the families of two men, it raises red flags.

"I just want to know what really happened. My family wants to know what really happened," said Annie Bradford, Develt Bradford's mother.

Bradford, 52, had been arrested for the November 10th shooting death of a security guard at a South Side Aldi's store. He was held in the Area 2 police lockup. At 1:30 in the morning on November 17, Bradford was found dead in his jail cell. Police said he had used his pajamas to hang himself.

Three days later, Melvin Woods, 62, who was jailed on a domestic assault charge, was found dead in the Area 2 lockup. Police said he had used his underwear to hang himself shortly before 1:30 in the morning.

"Two African-American men in the same police station in the same area commit suicide while video cameras are allegedly turned off is shocking," said Sam Adam, Bradford Family attorney.

While there are cameras in the Area 2 lockup, attorneys for both the Bradford and Woods families say they have been told nothing was recorded. Whether that means the cameras were off, or broken, or pointed in a different direction is not yet clear.

Bradford's attorneys are calling on the U.S. Attorney to conduct an independent investigation.

"The federal government has the resources to get this investigation done. It can be done in 60 days. There are people who know what happened. We don't know, you don't know, but people know," said Vic Henderson, Bradford Family attorney.

Apart from asking for a federal investigation, both families have filed wrongful death civil suits against the city.

"I'm not accusing anyone, but I believe information should be conveyed based on the need to know," said Congressman Danny Davis.

The Medical Examiner's Office has called both deaths suicides.

The attorneys for both families have asked that evidence - that is the pajamas and underwear the two men are said to have used to commit suicide - be preserved and forensically tested.

ABC7 asked the police department Wednesday to explain how the cameras are set up in the area two lockup. Our questions were directed to the Independent Police Review Authority, which is investigating the deaths. They declined comment.

The Chicago Police Department says that it is assessing its camera system and that both cases are under investigation.

There was no comment from the U.S. Attorney's Office on whether it will investigate.


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