The evening of Roderick Pritchett's descent into hell on earth started with an ordinary shopping trip to Safeway for his mom last November 21st. The 25 year-old African/Jamaican-American frequently ran errands for her; he was the sole car owner in his family.
On the way out of his south side Chicago apartment, he went back inside and grabbed his Taurus 9 mm pistol -- which was unloaded and in its case as Chicago law requires -- and tossed it in the passenger seat. Roderick liked to stop by the shooting range to practice his marksmanship once a week to stay sharp and keep his groupings tight.
In his wallet behind his driver's license was his FOID (Firearms Owner Identification Card) which he obtained before purchasing the gun in 2000. In accordance with the strict gun control laws enacted by Mayor Daley and the city legislature, Roderick kept the gun in his apartment and never carried it on his person. This seemed strange to him; the law essentially said that defending his property was more important than defending his life from the numerous predatory south side hoods. Pritchett however always followed the law, even the ones that defy common sense.
As he drove down South Ada St. toward the range, he noticed a police car tailing him. It was early evening and Roderick was a young black man with dreadlocks driving alone. In Chicago, that's lights-and-siren time. Sure enough, Police Officer Edward Kos and Officer Rodolfo Camarillo pulled him over at 87th and Ada for a burned out taillight.
The officers approached and asked if he would mind if they searched his car. Pritchett didn't object. He knew beyond a doubt that his 9 mm was 100 percent legal. He even had a copy of the Illinois gun laws in his case. When he handed over his driver's license, he also gave them his FOID and volunteered that he had a legal firearm in the vehicle. He knew he had nothing to fear.
Unfortunately, his confidence was short-lived. The police ordered him to take a seat in the back of their black-and-white. "The officers began questioning me from the front seat of their squad car before they even let me know I was under arrest," says Pritchett. "They giggled a couple of times before sarcastically asking me why I didn't run. I was shocked speechless at their rude treatment of me."
Pritchett couldn't understand why they were hassling him. With all the crime in the city, why should they bother someone with a legal gun? He pleaded that he was only going to the range and that his gun was legal, but to no avail. Pritchett was arrested for violating 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6 Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapons.
One of the officers left the squad car and got behind the wheel of Pritchett's station wagon to drive it to the station. Apparently, Officers Kos and Camarillo were either ignorant of the laws regarding the legal transportation of firearms, or chose to ignore them. In any case, Roderick Pritchett was on his way to 72 hours of misery that he would never forget.
Pritchett had his legal gun confiscated and was transported to the Cook County lockup and charged with a Class 4 Felony. Next, he endured the standard treatment of any run-of-the-mill accused felon within Chicago city limits -- a quite thorough strip search that left no body orifice sacred, incarceration, long days and sleepless nights in a cramped, urine-stinking cell chockablock with accused rapists and thieves, and meals of stale bread and cold soup in the company of accused child molesters and slightly more palatable muggers.
When his mother finally scraped together the $500 bond to secure his release three days later, Pritchett had one more treat awaiting him, courtesy of the Chicago PD -- a $700 fee to spring his station wagon from the impound lot. He begged the police before they impounded his car to let his girlfriend pick it up. The cops refused.
In the eyes of the police and those who make our laws, Pritchett deserved every minute of the humiliating ordeal he endured over the three miserable days of his imprisonment. He was a most grievous sinner and lawbreaker in their minds. He was a gun owner.
Mayor Daley, Cook County State Attorney Dick Devine, and other prominent city politicians have had it in for legal gun owners for years. Daley has stated that if it were up to him, no one would have a gun. Both have been ardent backers of limiting gun purchases to one per month and closing the non-existent 'gun show loophole.'
In a 1997 news conference at Chicago Police Headquarters, Daley, Devine and other gun control bureaucrats bragged of defeating proposed legislation that would have allowed the law-abiding to carry concealed firearms to protect themselves from criminals.
The police department follows their lead and makes the hassling of good sons like Pritchett a priority. Meanwhile, for all the beauty of our downtown's incredible architecture, the breathtaking museums, the thriving nightlife, and the rich history of our city, Chicago continues to be overrun by violent crime and guns. Despite some of the tightest gun control laws in the country, murders are a twice-daily occurrence in Chicago, on average.
Other jurisdictions around the nation in the last decade have come to realize the fallacy of gun control. Thirty-two states now issue concealed-carry gun permits and on average violent crime has dropped 24 percent in those states1, but Chicago, following the dubious example of Washington, D.C., continues with the old tried-and-failed method of legislating criminal behavior out of existence by restricting access to firearms. Even open-carry of a gun is banned here.
Our booming population of murderous thugs love the 'gun-free' atmosphere that such policies create. It leaves them with all the guns, and they use them. In 2001, their exhaustive, murderous efforts put 665 bodies on slabs in the morgue, which made Chicago the murder capital of the nation yet again. Moral cretins like these pay scant attention to the laws that prohibit blowing holes in other people, so naturally gun control laws are of no consequence to them whatsoever.
To the thugs, Chicago is a new Wild West, where bullets can and do fly anyplace, anytime. Even better for the hoods, the law-abiding guy on the other side of the corral has no way to defend himself from hails of illicit gunfire. With only the lawbreakers armed and the law-abiding obeying gun laws, the piles of cold bodies stack up like bloody cordwood year after grim year. The more 'sensible gun laws' Mayor Daley and company pass, the larger the body counts.
Pritchett's case, however, was not the typical, daily west side murder our good mayor is trying to prevent, and Pritchett was not the everyday violent thug. This was a straight arrow with a 100 percent legal gun obeying the law. And his nightmare still wasn't over.
After posting bond, Pritchett was arraigned on Nov. 27 at the Cook County Criminal Court. Cook County State Attorney Devine offered him a conditional discharge, if he would plead no contest and surrender his gun. Pritchett refused and pled not guilty. He wants his gun back and he wants justice. Now with a lawyer to represent him, Pritchett is ready to go the distance for what is right.
Says Pritchett, "I take this matter very personally and will not rest until this case is concluded in my favor. No matter how much I tried to kill the police with kindness and with the respect my mother instilled in me, they still managed to show no compassion at all for a law-abiding American. Now they have pissed me off and I'm ready to fight this to the end."
The fight is approaching its climax. Interestingly, the city has not charged Roderick with violating Chicago's handgun registration ordinance. They are going for the felony conviction in a trial set for March 20. Chicago is well on its way to topping the 600+ murder mark for the 36th consecutive year in 2003,2 but Devine believes that spending the city's time and taxpayer dollars proving that a law-abiding citizen does not have the right to own a gun is worth the fight.
The Pritchett case presents a prime opportunity. If Devine can convict Roderick Pritchett for legally transporting a cased and unloaded firearm, that renders the laws to purchase and own firearms in Chicago essentially meaningless. If they can do that, Mayor Daley and State Attorney Devine can demonstrate once and for all that The Bill of Rights does not apply to the good law-abiding citizens of Chicago. To some that may seem an outrageous violation of Chicagoans' God-given rights, but to others, making an example of Roderick Pritchett would be a fine way to top off their long, distinguished, and lucrative anti-gun, pro-criminal careers in city governance.
2 Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-0302030137feb03,0,7129258.column?coll=chi-news-hed