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Black Officers Accused of Stranding White Man Slain in Bad Neighborhood

November 5, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ Cecil McCool blames police for the death of his friend, who was beaten unconscious by a group of teen-agers in one of Chicago’s poorest suburbs and then set afire.

Richard Will, who was white, pleaded with black officers in Ford Heights to give him a ride to a police station after they had his car impounded, McCool said.

Instead, they left Will on his own in a gang-dominated black neighborhood after midnight, he said.

Police say they directed Will toward a pay phone and insist he was killed as he tried to buy drugs in the area.

Will, 32, a laborer at a horse racing track, had been alone for 15 minutes and was three blocks from the Ford Heights police station when he was attacked on Oct. 18.

Will’s family and many whites in Chicago’s southern suburbs blame the police for his death. Federal and state authorities are investigating.

``No one would know better than the police about the dangers of the neighborhood,″ said William Braverman, an attorney representing Will’s family, which is considering a lawsuit. ``There certainly was a standard of care that was breached.″

Critics say it parallels a 1989 incident in which Chicago police dropped off two black teen-agers in a rough white neighborhood. One of the teen-agers was beaten.

McCool and Will were stopped by police as they drove through Ford Heights after drinking at a bar in Hammond, Ind.

Lt. E.K. Haynie said he stopped them because they were driving the wrong way down an alley.

McCool, 32, who was driving Will’s car, said the two black officers used a phony reason that they had a broken headlight.

McCool was arrested for failing to pay child support.

Will had been drinking and his license was expired, so the officers had his car towed.

McCool said Will begged the officers not to leave him alone, but was told to walk home, a few miles away in Chicago Heights.

``He was scared, he was shaking,″ McCool said. ``He said, `Please, please, can I have a ride?‴

Haynie, however, said Will never asked for a ride, and that he and another officer watched Will walk north, toward a pay phone.

Will’s body was found south of where the men had been stopped, and Haynie said that was because Will had purposely doubled back to buy crack cocaine.

``Those officers wouldn’t have left him there,″ said Police Chief Jack Davis. ``He was looking to buy dope. What else would he be doing there at that time of night?″

Will’s car had been seen in the area several times that week, Davis said.

McCool said he never saw Will use crack and they didn’t use any drugs the night of his death. But Braverman acknowledged that an autopsy revealed narcotics, possibly marijuana, in Will’s system. Will had a police record, but for petty theft, not drugs, Braverman said.

Two teen-agers have been charged with killing Will. Three other juveniles were released for lack of evidence.

Update hourly