An all-white jury heard opening statements Tuesday at the civil trial for a 2009 officer-involved shooting at a Rockford daycare center. Mark Anthony Barmore, an unarmed black man, was killed during a confrontation with police who chased him into the House of Grace day care.
Ten children and a worker present at the shooting, in addition to the family which owns the church and daycare center, are suing for compensation for emotional trauma, psychological damage and financial losses.
Jeff Kolkey, covering the trial for the Rockford Register-Star, says officer Stan North testified that he feared for his partner's life during the confrontation. There were children in the building at the time of the shooting. During several hours on the witness stand, Kolkey says, North was asked why the officers didn't try harder to evacuate the children who were in the building at the time. Kolkey says all members of the jury are white, but he doesn't know how that will affect the outcome of the trial. He expects the trial could last about two weeks.
Barmore Case Background
It was August 24, 2009. Two white police officers chased an unarmed black man into the basement of a predominantly African-American church that also served as a daycare center. Police shot the man to death, with children and daycare workers present.
It could have happened in any city. It could have sparked more violence between police and protestors. What happened in Rockford that morning led to large non-violent marches, peaceful protests and discussions on race and economic conditions -- and it spurred procedural changes in the Rockford police department.
Mark Anthony Barmore, 23, was walking in downtown Rockford when he was confronted by police, who had a warrant for his arrest in a domestic incident.
Barmore started running and was chased by officers Oda Poole and Stan North. He ran to the Kingdom Authority International Ministries Church and headed into the House of Grace daycare, which was in the church’s basement. There, he shut himself in a closet-sized boiler room.
Daycare staff and very young children were still in the basement as the officers struggled to pull Barmore from behind an unlocked door.
From there, officer accounts differ from those of a witness. Poole and North say Barmore lunged for Poole’s gun and had it pointed at the officer’s face. North then shot Barmore. The daughter of the church’s minister said she saw Barmore’s hands up, as if he was trying to surrender.
The shooting was investigated by the Cook County Integrity Task Force, the Illinois State Police, and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney. The shooting was ruled to be justified, and a grand jury chose not to indict the officers.
However, another investigation commissioned by the city of Rockford found that the officers did not follow proper procedure: They should have cleared the room of the daycare’s children and waited for back-up.
In the months following the shooting, local and national activists led marches through the streets of Rockford, protesting police brutality and the lack of economic opportunities for African-Americans. There was also a large march held in support of the officers.
In 2014, Barmore’s family received a $1.1 million dollar settlement from the city. The city is in court now, being sued by the church, daycare, and families of ten of the children who witnessed the shooting.