Smile Politely

Local activist’s son allegedly beaten by Champaign police

It has been two years since Kiwane Carrington was killed by a Champaign police officer, but 18-year-old black youth, Calvin Miller, is still afraid of the police. So when a Champaign cop attempted to pull him over on Monday night for no apparent reason, he panicked. He only wanted to get home that night.

When Calvin appeared in court for arraignment on Monday afternoon, he walked into the courtroom with crutches. His right ankle was sprained, maybe fractured. His right eye was swollen shut. He also had bump on the right side of his forehead. Other people noticeably stared at him.

Called before Judge Richard Klaus, Calvin was told that he was being charged with resisting a peace officer. He had “exited a fleeing vehicle” and “lunged” toward Champaign police officer Matt Rush. He was also being charged for criminal damage to property, less than $300, when the vehicle he was driving ran into the porch steps of a house. The story Calvin told me after the hearing was significantly different.

According to Calvin, he had dropped off a friend at around 1 a.m. on Monday morning, October 24, 2011, and was driving home when a Champaign police car pulled up behind him on Marketview Drive. Calvin says he obeyed all the traffic laws and drove the speed limit. The officer turned on his lights. Close to his mother’s house, Calvin kept driving with the hope he could make it there. After a couple blocks, he turned into a residential driveway on Arcadia. [Calvin says] the police officer rammed him with his squad car, causing the car to lurch forward into the porch steps (the CPD says that Miller jumped from his van while it was still moving, and it continued into the porch on its own — bracketed text and this parenthetical aside added at 6 p.m. 10/26/11). Calvin got out of the car and started to run toward his house.

Police told him to stop and Calvin says he responded by getting on the ground. As Calvin tells the story, officer John Lieb approached and hit him in the face with his baton several times. “When they told me to stop,” Calvin said. “I stopped. He didn’t need to beat me in my head.” Calvin put his hands up over his head, but the cop kept beating him, injuring him on his forehead, eye, and jaw. He rolled over onto his stomach and was placed in handcuffs. Lieb pepper sprayed Calvin directly in his face while he was handcuffed. He was then placed under arrest. Calvin was taken to Carle Hospital which failed to conduct any tests or even wash the pepper spray out of his eyes. He was bailed out of jail the next morning.

Incidentally, Calvin is also the son of local black activist Martel Miller, who has consistently appeared at city council meetings reporting on the brutality of the Champaign police. I saw Calvin at rallies and teach-ins with his father after the Kiwane Carrington incident. While not as politically active as his father, he was deeply affected by the killing of Kiwane, who was only a year younger than Calvin at the time of his death. Calvin has no criminal background, but remains scared of the police. He is currently a student at Parkland College.

UPDATE (9 a.m. 10/27/11): Here is the CPD’s press release regarding the arrest (pdf).

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