(page 4 of 4)
“Do you really want to get to the depth—D-E-P-T-H—of this?” Chuck Harris asks me, when we meet one weekday morning at Ruby’s Restaurant, formerly Edna’s, the legendary West Side soul food eatery. Harris speaks in the confrontational, impassioned voice of a muckraker, which is exactly what he is. For more than three decades Harris published a slew of neighborhood newspapers with militant-sounding titles, including Struggle, Truth Advocate, and First Chicago DC—“DC” being short for “Definitions and Contradictions.” He admits he is paranoid, and at his insistence, we sit alone in an empty private room in the back of the restaurant, away from the prying eyes in the crowded dining room.
When we had first met previously at the Catfish Corner a week or so earlier, he told me that he “knew some things” about Scott’s death that he insisted “would blow your mind.” Naturally, I was curious. But when we sat down at Ruby’s, he was more interested in hearing about what I had discovered from my own investigation into Scott’s death.
Harris—among others—is convinced that Scott was murdered by a rogue police officer, or unit, under the orders of powerful forces inside City Hall. When I ask him for substantiation of his claim, he insists, “The Chicago police department has always had—still now—a hit team. “During the sixties they were called the Red Squad.”
Chicago’s Red Squad, which was formally abolished in 1975, was established as a special unit within the police department in the 1920s, when it was known as the Industrial Unit and centered around spying on labor unions and so-called radical community organizations. In the 1950s, the unit investigated suspected Communist groups, hence earning the Red Squad moniker. In the sixties, the squad’s focus shifted to antiwar and civil rights groups, including 1968 Democratic National Convention protesters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Operation PUSH, according to a report by a Cook County grand jury that investigated the unit in 1975.
Harris and others are quick to point to other cases of police misconduct. There’s Jon Burge, of course, the notorious Chicago police commander who allegedly tortured scores of criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991, in order to force confessions. (Last year, Burge was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice and sentenced to 54 months in prison.) More recently, they mention Jerome Finnigan, the Chicago police officer in the special operations unit who, in April, pleaded guilty to a murder-for-hire plot against a fellow police officer, among other crimes. According to federal prosecutors, Finnigan was the ringleader of a small group of officers who made false arrests and robbed people’s homes, acting under the guise of doing legitimate police work. Harris and others posit: If Finnigan could plot to kill a cop, surely a bad apple on the police force could do it to Michael Scott. “I know I’m right!” he says. “It gnaws at me. It makes me angry, the things that I believe. It’s gonna bust this city wide open!”