Posted on September 22, 2006

Police Failed Her, And Now Daley Has Too

John Kass, Chicago Tribune, September 21, 2006

The Daley administration is stonewalling the case of Christina Eilman, the blond, white and bipolar California woman released from a police lockup at 51st and Wentworth after an episode at Midway Airport in May.

Police left her to fend for herself.

She couldn’t.

And now City Hall is fighting the release of interviews that would show how police allowed her to leave, to walk alone in a neighborhood where, residents told me Wednesday, she had no chance.

In the past, Mayor Richard Daley has been eager to publicly hold his Police Department up to ridicule, when it served his political interests and when the cops were blue shirts with no clout.

But then the victims were black and Christina is not, and he’s running for re-election.

What’s odd is the deafening silence from the usual suspects who complain about mistreatment by police.

There are no protests about Christina. No news conferences. No politicians and clergymen and activists demanding answers while seeking “social justice.”

In a political sense, Christina Eilman may be a victim of her own whiteness.

Extremely solid and detailed reporting by Tribune writer David Heinzmann has demonstrated that police had no business letting Christina loose while her parents were in California, calling police, thinking their troubled daughter was safe in police custody.

She wasn’t.

She was walked out of the lockup, the former UCLA student, 21 years old, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. She proceeded east on 51st Street under the viaduct, finally reaching the King JJ Fish and Chicken fast-food restaurant.

“It was clear she was having mental problems,” Tiffany Love, an employee of the restaurant, told me Wednesday. “She met up with a crackhead. A woman. She took her over to Robert Taylor.”

There, at the Robert Taylor Chicago Housing Authority development, Christina was taken inside, up to the seventh floor, where she allegedly was raped by a gang leader before she fell”either was pushed or she jumped”to the mushy weeds and softball-size rocks in the yard below.

That took place on May 8. She is now paralyzed and suffers from brain damage. And City Hall maintains silence, even though there are legitimate questions in the public interest about the incident.

Who decided to release her? How were those decisions made and why?

Christina’s family has filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city, which allowed their daughter, arrested at Midway for acting out, to be condemned to bureaucratic indifference and the brutality of strangers. Now, City Hall lawyers are trying to keep interviews from Internal Affairs investigators under seal in federal court and out of the public view.


“There is no valid public interest served by the city concealing the statements of police officers and private citizen witnesses who observed what happened to Christina while in police custody,” Jeff Singer, the lawyer for Eilman’s parents, said Wednesday.


Dirty laundry wasn’t a problem for the mayor when he demanded punishment for two cops alleged to have dropped off two black teens in the 11th Ward’s Canaryville neighborhood, where they were beaten.

It didn’t bother him when he demanded prosecutions in other cases, involving even the slightest allegation that race was involved.

Unfortunately, race may be involved here too, but nobody wants to talk about it. There is no percentage in talking about it. This one won’t generate any votes. It doesn’t fit the approved profile.

In the CHA high-rise, several people there were concerned about Christina Eilman. They said she was not mentally competent to survive on their streets alone.

A woman came up to me in a dark hallway inside the high-rise. I asked if she thought the police were right to release Christina.

“She had no chance,” the woman said. “No chance.”