Ex-Harvey cop testifies against mayor he accuses of risking his life for revenge
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 18, 2013 10:32PM
Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:48AM
Stripped of his police dog and assigned a beat-up squad car with no computer, a busted radio and non-functioning lights, Harvey cop Alex Gbur was sent out at night to patrol some of the Chicago area’s meanest streets alone.
He almost didn’t make it back alive.
Fired upon by two gang members in the early hours of Sept. 26, 2006, the burly retired Marine narrowly dodged multiple bullets.
But Metra cop Thomas Cook wasn’t so lucky — less than 24 hours later he was killed nearby, allegedly by one of the gunmen who’d fired at Gbur.
Now, six years later, one of the darkest days in Harvey police history is being rehashed in a federal court civil trial. Gbur is trying to convince a jury that Mayor Eric Kellogg and his political allies in the police department deliberately endangered his life that night in an act of revenge.
Kellogg’s backers ordered Gbur to patrol alone in a “deathtrap” squad car because the mayor was livid that Gbur was backing a rival mayoral candidate, and because Gbur had complained to the Department of Justice about racism inside the Harvey Police Department, Gbur alleges.
It’s an allegation Kellogg and attorneys for the city strongly deny. Though Kellogg has a history of hiring and promoting politically loyal cops with questionable backgrounds, they say Gbur — since fired — was punished only because he’d damaged his regular issue police car, then lied about how the damage happened.
But the case is again shining a unflattering light on the City of Harvey, a high-crime area long troubled with allegations of police misconduct.
In court Friday, Gbur fought back tears as he described his feelings of “guilt” at not being able to catch Jemetric Nicholson, the shooter who allegedly killed Cook later that day.
He said that though more than a dozen brand new squad cars were available for use that night, his sergeant told him that he was to take the unsafe car as “punishment for making a statement to the DOJ and for supporting Marion Beck.”
A commander Gbur complained to told him “nothing’s gonna happen to you,” but Gbur left with a strong sense that “something was not right,” he testified.
When he was later fired upon, he reached for the broken radio in the faulty squad car to call for backup, and used his “muscle memory” to open the back door to release his K-9 partner, only to remember that he was alone, he testified.
He broke down as he described being sent back out onto the street to finish his shift just two hours after the shooting in the same unsafe squad car, adding that he’d been “anxious” and “scared” about what his fellow officers “were trying to do to me.”
Andrew Joshua, Harvey’s police chief at the time of the shooting, told jurors Gbur’s punishment was inappropriate and that it was also wrong that he was sent back onto the street almost immediately.
Though Joshua, who has since retired, is a defendant in the case, his testimony about the apparently minor role he had in running the department prompted wry smiles from some jurors.
Joshua said that he had nothing to do with Kellogg’s decision to re-hire and promote several disgraced officers who supported him, including one who was made Kellogg’s personal bodyguard after Joshua moved to have him fired a second time.
The chief also didn’t know for days that Gbur had been shot at, how Gbur had been punished, or that his department was the subject of a federal probe, he said.
Kellogg is due to take the stand when the trial resumes next week.