Investigation sought in shooting of homeless news vendor p. 26

By: By Mark Fitzgerald A U.S. CONGRESSMAN, the South Side branch of the NAACP and dozens of Chicago politicians and activists are calling for a federal investigation into the shooting by an off-duty policeman of a vendor of StreetWise, the Chicago newspaper produced and sold by the homeless.
Joseph Gould, 36, was shot and killed late July 30 after a confrontation with an off-duty Chicago policeman and a woman.
In the Rashoman-like case, details are sketchy, but it appears Gould was offering to wash car windows at a West Loop intersection. When the police officer, Gregory Becker, refused, Gould apparently insulted Becker's female companion. At some point, Becker got his service revolver from his trunk and shot Gould.
Becker and his companion drove away from the scene ? the companion later explaining in court that though they heard a shot and the homeless man disappeared from view, they did not realize Gould had been shot.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge dropped the most serious charge against Becker, involuntary manslaughter, and three other felony charges, citing the conflicting stories of witnesses.
That decision enraged officials of the monthly homeless newspaper. In the days since the Sept. 6 dismissal of the charges, StreetWise has sponsored numerous marches and marshaled political support for a federal investigation into the shooting.
Adding to the volatility of the situation, there is a strong racial component to the shooting: Gould was black, while the police officer is white and a married man who was accompanied that night by a black woman, who
described herself in court as Becker's "girlfriend."
As portrayed by prosecutors, Gould was no model StreetWise vendor, who are required by the newspaper to be sober and mannerly while they are selling. At the time of his shooting, prosecutors say, Gould had drugs and alcohol in his bloodstream. He also had what police described as a substantial criminal record.
Gould was not selling the newspaper at the time of his shooting. At a rally and march in Chicago's Loop Sept. 10, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D.-Chicago) condemned the handling of the case by Cook County State's Attorney Jack O'Malley. Rush and others have questioned why O'Malley did not present the case to a grand jury, which is almost certain to have indicted the policeman.
"We asked O'Malley to remove himself from this case and step aside," Rush told the crowd of about 300. "We want a special prosecutor . . . so we can have confidence . . . justice is delivered in this case."
O'Malley has defended his office's handling of the case, saying the complicating factors of conflicting witnesses, drugs and alcohol in Gould's system, Gould's criminal history and the racial factors were better aired in a public court than a secret grand jury.
Becker, a police officer since 1991, still faces two misconduct charges in the incident. He has been suspended from duty and Chicago Police Superintendent Matt Rodriguez has said he wants him fired.


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