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Police Accused in Wrongful Death
People of color and whistleblowers are still being targeted for violence. Greg Palma was Latino. This article is from 2000 and reflects the ongoing abuse of power that is waxing rather than waning.
In 2000, I interviewed a Chicago woman who claimed the Police murdered her son.
“I can’t call the Police. How do I trust these people again?” A Chicago woman no longer feels comfortable calling 911 after the shooting of her son by Police two years ago. The Police of Downer’s Grove, Illinois, shot Greg Palma after a four-hour standoff where he had barricaded himself in his apartment.
A host of unanswered questions still surrounds the case. Ms. Palma, Greg’s mother, has contacted many agencies, enlisted the help of lawyers and spent thousands of dollars, trying to make sense of her son’s death. According to Palma, the authorities completely disregarded her son’s basic human rights, used excessive force and even went so far as to lie about events to defend their actions.
The following is from the office of Palma’s lawyer.
(FAX from office of Robert J. Klein Attorney at Law, April 17, 2001.)
“This Federal case involves what we believe is a “wrongful death,” in that the Downer’s Grove Police Department, Officer James Edwards, shot and killed our client, Gregory Palma, while (GP was) exiting his home and turning himself into the Police at an agreed and specified location. The Police claim that Mr. Palma made a run for it while carrying a sawed off shotgun and that he shot at the officers causing them to return fire and subsequently kill him. I believe that the evidence will show that the “alleged “sawed off shotgun,” was never discharged…”
Ms. Palma said that on April 21, 1999, the woman who lived in the downstairs apartment from the Palma residence called the Downer's Grove Police claiming Greg was trying to break into her apartment with a chainsaw and a shotgun. Palma said she arrived on the scene at approximately 5:30 to 6:00 PM. “A battalion of Policemen arrived along with a SWAT Team. I asked the Police to (let me) speak to my son who was barricaded in our apartment. I told them I would get him out for them, but the Police refused to let me speak to Greg and they detained me across the street at Lincoln Center. I explained that Greg was handicapped and had no criminal record, but they refused to let me near the apartment. I thought Greg was afraid of being hurt or killed,” Palma said. Earlier that morning, she said that Greg had asked her not to go to work that day because he feared the Police would kill him. “At the time I thought Greg was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome because of a terrible accident that he’d had in 1997.”
“Around 9:00 PM the police told me Greg had “put his guns out,” she said. “Greg owned two rifles and a small gun--all registered so the police knew that he had guns. Then I was told that Greg had been handcuffed and was on his way to the Downers Grove Police Station where I was to meet him. As we were walking toward the front door on our way out of Lincoln Center, the Police detained me an additional two to three hours in the corridor. I kept asking about my son and they kept telling me that Greg was fine and this was routine. When they finally took me to the station I was informed that my son was dead. I was not allowed to go near my son or my apartment.”
News Release from Downer’s Grove Police Department, April 22, 1999:
At approximately 5:50 PM on Wednesday April 21, 1999, officers from the Downer’s Grove Police Department responded to a 911 call at a duplex at 928 Maple in Downer’s Grove. The female caller, who lived in the downstairs apartment, indicated that the male resident of the upstairs apartment was attempting to force entry into her residence.
When officers arrived at the scene, the subject, Gregory J. Palma, age 35, had returned to his upstairs apartment and was breaking out windows. He also displayed a firearm. The Downer’s Grove SWAT Team was called in and negotiators made contact with the subject. The DuPage county Sheriff’s Office, Illinois State Police, and the Darien and Westmont Police Departments also responded.
After several hours of negotiations, the subject agreed to exit the residence and surrender. He then ran from the rear of the residence carrying a shotgun. The subject fired the shotgun and struck Downer’s Grove Police Chief Graves, who was standing nearby. The bullet struck Chief Graves in the lower legs. He was treated and released from Good Samaritan Hospital.
Officers returned fire and fatally struck the subject. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No one else was injured. The investigation is continuing.
In response to the news release Palma had several comments. “Police Chief Graves was injured by concrete shrapnel from a bullet fired by Officer Edwards. When Officer Edward’s shot Greg, a bullet shattered the concrete steps. The Police Department’s claim that Greg had shot Police Chief Graves was defamation of character.” According to Palma, the Downers Grove Police had put out the faulty news release the day after the incident, April 22, even though they knew that Greg had not fired a gun. “Greg had no gunpowder on his hands and none of Greg’s weapons had been fired. Also, I was told he had been handcuffed and in the pictures that I took at the funeral home it shows that he had deep marks on his wrists that appear to be from handcuffs.” In regard to the windows, Palma said she had noticed that they seemed to have been broken from the outside not the inside because glass was inside along the walls.
“They also mention “running.” Greg was disabled and had trouble walking and going up the stairs of the apartment.” a July 27, 1997 accident had crushed his pelvis, Palma said. “This happened in South Carolina when he was working on a wall and it collapsed, injuring him. Greg underwent three surgeries and Doctors pieced the pelvis together with metal plates and nails. He spent 2-1/2 months in intensive care and eight months in a wheelchair and then began receiving Disability Benefits. He also suffered 70% nerve damage in his legs. In April 1999 Greg was still under the care of Dr. Miller who specialized in pelvic fractures. He was still having a hard time walking and suffered pain from nerve damage,” said Palma.
Palma said she wasn’t allowed to see her son’s body until three days later. She said she photographed his body and had her lawyer send the photographs, X-rays and other forensic data to Doctor Paulino Medina Paiz at the National University of Anatomy in Leon, Nicaragua. (Palma is originally from Nicaragua.) The Doctor indicated that there was bruising on the wrists and a severe contusion on the mandible among other trauma to Greg’s body. Palma believes her son was handcuffed and beaten.
Currently Palma is facing a lawsuit. “Chief Graves is suing Greg's estate, which I am the holder of. Consequently, it is costing me money that I don't have and causing tremendous emotional stress. “I believe this is a form of harassment by Chief Graves towards me, to break me down and create more pain and stress,” Palma said.
Over the past year and a half, Palma said there has also been subtle harassment. She said, “One of Greg’s dogs was poisoned and my flower pot at my business was knocked over for the first time in all the years I’ve had the shop.” She also said that on a few occasions complete strangers had followed her and said, “Die old bitch.” Palma said, “I never had any of these problems until the Police shot Greg. I believe they want to put a stop to my inquiries about my son’s death, but I’m not stopping.”
Palma said that at times she feels frightened. “The power went off the other night and I was scared, but I have no one to turn to. I can’t call the Police.”
Palma died of stomach related illness three years after this interview.
I submitted this article to the Chicago Baffler in 2001. I hadn’t heard anything (the usual rejection letter) so I emailed asking if they had received it. They said they hadn’t and said they had recently had a fire in their office.
In 2001, I began experiencing minor harassment from strangers on the street and workplace mobbing. This has continued and the harassment has grown exponentially.