NEWS

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April 19, 2018

Charles Thomas Out of Hospital, Appears at Court Hearing

Charles Thomas, the student shot by University police two weeks ago, was released from the hospital on Wednesday and appeared in court on Thursday.

Thomas, with a sling on his shoulder, appeared with his lawyer Jeffrey Urdangen at a preliminary criminal hearing where his case was assigned to a judge. During the brief hearing, his attorney said that Thomas had been recovering at Northwestern Hospital until Wednesday.

A judge had previously placed Thomas under electronic home monitoring. His bond was set at $15,000, although since it was a D-bond, Thomas only had to pay ten percent, or $1,500, to be released on bond. Thomas was facing three felony charges and two misdemeanor charges relating to property damage and alleged assault of a peace officer.

According to the case activity, there was a superseding indictment filed Thursday. A superseding indictment replaces a previous indictment, typically when new evidence allows for new charges. The state’s attorney declined to comment on the status of the prosecution.

Nicholas Twardak, the officer who shot Thomas, was a complainant on the original charges. Court documents show that after Thomas was shot, Twardak was admitted to the University of Chicago medical center for high blood pressure. The other complainants were MAC apartments manager Veronica Markham, two residents whose vehicles were damaged, and a third person whose front door window was damaged.

On campus, Student Government leaders have debated how to respond to the shooting.

Student body president Calvin Cottrell presented a resolution at College Council Tuesday on UCPD transparency and mental health issues. The draft resolution calls for UCPD to release its use of force protocols and share any final reports on the shooting with the public in a timely manner.

Second-year College Council representatives Jahne Brown, Alisha Harris, and Marlin Figgins planned to vote no on Cottrell’s resolution because they believe that it does not sufficiently include “the voices and thoughts of community members,” according to a Wednesday statement from Brown. The meeting minutes show that Brown asked Cottrell if he considered having the resolution address whether the UCPD should exist at all.

In an e-mail to the SG listhost Thursday, Cottrell said that following the CC debate, his slate decided that the issue needs more time for feedback before bringing the resolution to a vote. He said it will not be considered at the April 23 meeting of the Assembly, the full SG body that includes undergraduate and graduate representatives.

Cottrell’s draft resolution also calls for increasing mental health resources on campus and suggests changes to the UCPD’s Independent Review Committee (IRC).

This UCPD review committee of faculty, students, staff, and community members is responsible for reviewing complaints that are made against UCPD officers. Cottrell’s resolution draft suggests increasing the number of community representatives on the committee.

IRC has not had a meeting since the shooting, according to a member, and the committee’s spring quarter meeting is in the process of being scheduled.

The University said that Twardak has no documented complaints on his record. However, the source explained that the committee could potentially weigh in on the shooting outside of the normal process even if there is no complaint, but “without any specific facts it probably wouldn’t be able to be a very strong recommendation.”

When a complaint is filed against an officer, the source said, IRC gets reports by the police about the incident. In some cases, committee members also review transcripts of interviews and audio or video evidence.

The University has faced criticism from activists since the shooting about transparency, since UCPD and other private police forces are not subject to freedom of information laws. A spokesperson for the University said that the University provides extensive information on the activities of its police department on a voluntary basis.

The University quickly released body and dash camera footage of the incident, which shows Twardak firing a single shot at Thomas in the shoulder as he moves toward the officer’s end of the alley of the 5300 block between Kimbark and Woodlawn. In the videos, Thomas carries a metal tent stake that he had been using to smash windows.

Thomas’s mother has explained that there is a history of bipolar disorder in their family and that Thomas was likely having a mental health episode. A judge took mental health and Thomas’s lack of a criminal record into consideration when initially setting bond.

Thomas’s next court hearing will be on April 27. The UChicago Socialists - ISO organization will hold an event on April 25 in response to the shooting titled “An Occupying Force: UChicago’s Role in Policing and Gentrifying the South Side.”

Thomas is from Riverside, California, and his friend Shigufa Saleheen, a UC Riverside student, organized an event Monday titled “Overcoming: A Discussion on Mental Health and Social Justice” in support of Thomas.

“Let’s stand in solidarity with students of the University of Chicago, stop the stigma of discussing mental illness & trauma, and remind our own university to invest in us + our well-being through increasing counseling staff, training, and resources,” Saleheen wrote on Twitter.

Saleheen saw “Overcoming” as a way of both responding to Thomas’ shooting and solving the same problem on a local level.

“We want this to be healing to not just us as friends of Charles, but also to the Riverside community which definitely faces a similar issue in lack of accessibility for mental health and trauma resources,” she wrote.

Part of the focus was on removing charges against Thomas for property damage.

“Even in the face of such a fucked-up situation, [Charles is] the type to want something positive to come out of it,” Saleheen wrote on Twitter. “Let’s do that for him.”

An online fundraiser for Thomas has raised $20,000.

Spencer Dembner, Caroline Kubzansky, and Pete Grieve contributed reporting.

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