Selena Johnson lived her final months in mortal fear of her husband.
Selena was a Chicago police officer; so was her husband, Edward M. Johnson.
Last Memorial Day he pulled a gun on her. They were driving home on 76th Street; it was just before midnight. “Ed accused me of having a boyfriend, told me of sexual things I do to him,” Selena said in a sworn affidavit she submitted the following month in filing for divorce. I responded by demanding he get out of the car. He refused. I told him, ‘I’ll get out and call my so-called boyfriend and he’ll pick me up.’ Ed reached for his gun, held the hammer of it back with his thumb and said, ‘You fucking bitch, I’m gonna kill you, you shouldn’t have done that.’
“He held the gun to his right knee,” Selena wrote, “never pointed at me, but I was totally convinced he was going to kill me, and he was totally aware of this fact. I reached for the car door to get out. Again he said ‘Bitch, I’ll blow your fucking brains out.’ I know I begged and pleaded, hoping and praying I’ll get through to him not to kill me.”
Selena managed to get out of the car, but Ed did too and pursued her. “I turned to see if he was about to shoot me,” she said in the affidavit. “He saw how scared I looked and that’s when he told me he loved me and that he wasn’t going to hurt me. He tried to get me back into the car. I resisted because of fear. (I thought he must have lost his mind and Ed was very intoxicated, he’s been drinking the whole day and night.)”
Then an unmarked police car pulled up behind them. “Ed . . . warned me to be cool because the police were coming,” Selena wrote. “I was glad, told them what Ed had done. They brought me home. Ed was behind us in our car.
“I feel Ed is mentally unstable,” Selena concluded, “and I’ll probably always be afraid that he will go off and do me bodily harm.”
This was hardly the first time Ed had given Selena reason to fear him. He had beaten her periodically during most of their 15 years of marriage. The past January, he had cracked a few of her teeth with a pop to the jaw. Selena had tolerated the beatings and stuck with him, partly for the sake of their two young children–Edward Jr., who goes by his Muslim name, Muhammad, and Zakiyyah. But this latest episode had pushed her past her limit. For the first time, she felt like Ed really intended to kill her. “Now I know how a prisoner would feel,” she told a friend later, in recounting the incident. “I was thinking, ‘Should I try to run and get shot, or should I stay here and get shot?'”
At Selena’s insistence, Ed moved out of their house, at 7704 S. Hamilton. When Selena filed for divorce in June, she got a court order granting her sole possession of the house. She also got an order of protection, which required Ed to stay away from her and the house, and prohibited him from abusing, or tormenting her. Ed kept abusing and tormenting her anyway. He came by the house and knocked her around on at least two occasions. He called her frequently, sometimes in the middle of the night, and threatened her life; Selena took to unplugging the phone at bedtime. She occasionally saw Ed lurking near the house at night.
Selena asked the police to help her, and really believed they would. She had more faith in the police than do a lot of citizens, particularly blacks like her. “She told me once, ‘If you need help, who else do you turn to?'” a friend of hers says. “She was very serious. I felt she was putting too much trust in the police.”
She visited a police chaplain, but he wasn’t much help. Selena told a friend he advised her to stick by her husband, said Ed could kick his drinking habit by going to Alcoholics Anonymous, and then the violence probably would end. He gave her some holy cards with prayers on them. But Ed kept harassing her, and she was still scared. In August she lodged a complaint against Ed with the Police Department. When the menacing calls and surveillance continued, she talked with Ed’s commander. He told her to put her complaints in writing. She put her complaints in writing.
She wasn’t trying to get Ed fired, she told friends; she needed his financial help for the children. She just wanted his bosses to put the screws on him so the abuse and threats would stop. Ed was a rough and proud cop–“Lock ‘Em Up Ed” they called him in his Englewood district, to his delight. Nothing pleased him like a good pinch; nothing matched the kick he got from depositing another offender at the Englewood lockup. “When those doors clang shut,” he would tell his partner with a broad grin, “it almost makes me come.” Ed was so crazy about his job, Selena told a friend, “he might stop harassing me if he knows he might lose it.”
She also was irritated that he was watching her on city time and getting away with it. When she saw him staking out the house, Ed, a tactical (plainclothes) officer, would often be in his unmarked police car. She felt he should be taken off tac work for a while and assigned duties that didn’t require carrying a gun. “They should give him a desk job, where he can shoot nothing but the walls,” she told a friend.
Ed’s bosses had more than Selena’s allegations to indicate that she was in jeopardy. Ed himself had admitted to the boss of his tac team that he had pulled a gun on Selena on Memorial Day. After Selena filed for divorce, he told coworkers he didn’t have much to live for. And if he couldn’t have Selena, he told them, no one else would. When he began suspecting Selena was seeing a sergeant in her district–Grand Crossing–he told coworkers he was going to take care of this sergeant, too. It was common knowledge on the tac team that Ed was conducting surveillance on his wife when he was supposed to be working. His productivity dropped markedly; once, he returned to the station so upset he couldn’t work, saying he had spotted Selena and the sergeant together. He called the sergeant up and threatened him; the sergeant lodged his own complaint with the department against Ed.
Selena’s charges, and Ed’s behavior, did eventually prompt Ed’s bosses to act: they sat him down for heart-to-heart chats, advising him to stay away from his wife and let his lawyer handle matters, and recommending counseling but not requiring it.
When Ed would come by and hit her, Selena would call the police. Ed would flee before they came, and the officers would say they couldn’t arrest him because he wasn’t there. They told her if she wanted to press charges, she’d have to sign a complaint and go to domestic violence court. When she signed a complaint and went to court, what she got was a criminal order of protection, which was supposed to make it easier for police to arrest Ed if he bothered her again. But those lockup doors would never clang shut on “Lock ‘Em Up Ed.”
In a September 2 letter to Ed’s commander, Selena listed Ed’s recent history of abuse, starting with the Memorial Day incident. She described phone calls in which Ed said he would “shoot up the house” and “kick in the door,” and that he could “blow [Selena] away at any time.” She reported that on August 29 Ed came to the house after midnight, “banging on the doors, climbing a fence and looking into the dining room” after arriving in an unmarked police car, “indicating he was on duty at the time.” She was “truly scared and concerned,” she wrote, “not knowing what extremes P.O. E. Johnson will go, placing R/O [reporting officer] in fear of her life.” She said she “would greatly appreciate any action the Commanding Officer may take” to help her.
But she doubted she’d get any assistance; by then, her trust in police had evaporated, and she seemed resigned to her fate. She gave a copy of the letter to a friend, with instructions to make it public if anything happened to her “so everyone will know I exhausted all avenues to get help. I don’t know where else to turn.” She told the friend she was mailing copies to Ed’s commander, to her commander, and to the Internal Affairs Division (IAD), which is responsible, along with the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), for reviewing complaints against department members. Her action did indeed provoke a swift response from police officials: the head of OPS called her commander and asked him to instruct her to stop spreading those letters around.
On Sunday, September 11–nine days after she wrote the letter–there was Ed at the house again, knocking her around and threatening to kill her. He had his gun in his belt and touched it menacingly, but 12-year-old Muhammad intervened, the kids ran for help, and Ed bolted. Police were summoned to the scene by a neighbor, but as always, they made no attempt to find Ed and arrest him.
Ed got his final pass in the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 13. It was the state police this time who let him slide. Ed, who had been drinking, caused a three-car accident on the Dan Ryan at 1:30 that morning. Ed and his sister’s husband, Robert Kilpatrick, were out for a drive when the accident occurred. One of the state troopers who arrived on the scene smelled the booze on Ed’s breath and confiscated his gun. But Ed and Kilpatrick insisted that Kilpatrick had been driving, not Ed. Kilpatrick says that after the trooper wrote his report, he returned to their car, and Kilpatrick admitted to him that he was just covering for Ed. But the trooper returned the gun and let Ed and Kilpatrick proceed on their way.
A little more than an hour later, Ed, now alone, parked his car at 76th Place and Hamilton, and walked a block to the two-story Georgian at 7704. It was nearing 3:30 AM when he arrived. Detectives aren’t sure whether he slipped in through a basement window or entered through the front or back door; Selena had had the locks changed, but a slick tac officer like Ed could have figured out a way past them. Inside, he climbed the flight of steps to Selena’s bedroom. Muhammad and eight-year-old Zakiyyah were asleep in another second-floor bedroom.
Zakiyyah woke first, to loud noises and her parents’ shouts. She got out of bed and went to her mother’s bedroom. Her father was standing there, a gun in his hand; her mother was lying face down on the bed, saying, “Oh God, oh God.” Ed ordered Zakiyyah out of the room and shoved the door closed. Now Muhammad was up also; the two children tried to push the door open, but their father was holding it shut. They heard their mother say, “How did you get in here?” and then they heard a shot. They managed to get the door open. Their mother was on the bed, and there was blood on the pillow next to her head. She was trying to roll away from their father, but he put the gun to the back of her head and fired three times. Muhammad would later describe to a detective how his mother’s head bounced with each shot; Zakiyyah would tell an uncle how her mother’s brains splattered from her head.
The children raced out of the house to a neighbor’s across the street. They heard more shots as they ran out; they assumed their father had shot himself as well as their mother. Actually, Ed was pouring more bullets into Selena; he shot her eight times in all, six times in the back of the head. Then he ran to the garage and fled in Selena’s Volvo.
When the children roused a neighbor and frantically told her of the shooting, the neighbor called 911. She told the police dispatcher there was probably a dead body or two at 7704 S. Hamilton. In moments, screaming sirens and flashing blue beams awoke the neighborhood.
The first officers on the scene found Selena prone on the bed, her hands cupped under her face. Blood had pooled beneath her; it was spattered on the pillow next to her, on the walls, the ceiling, the dresser and TV, and on the wall of the hall outside the bedroom.
Ed drove a mile and a half south and two miles east to the home of Annise Fuller, another Chicago police officer. Fuller was Selena’s field training officer and personal friend. Ed’s partner, Joe Avila, says Ed blamed Fuller “for teaching Selena how to party.” Selena had been a good docile wife beforehand, Ed felt.
Ed knocked on Fuller’s door at a few minutes to four and asked to come in. Fuller refused to open up. Ed drove to a pay phone and called Fuller. “I just shot Selena,” he told her. “She’s got eight or nine bullets in her. You’re lucky you didn’t open your door.” He said he planned to kill all the people who had messed up his marriage.
After Fuller reported the visit and the call to police, the department assigned guards to her and to several other likely targets, including the Grand Crossing sergeant Ed had threatened and the judge who had granted Selena her criminal order of protection.
Next Ed called his brother-in-law Kilpatrick, with whom he had been staying. He told him what he had done, and asked him to go to the house and look after the kids.
Police searched the south side and south suburbs for Ed. An anonymous tipster in Hammond, Indiana, said he had spotted Ed there; another caller claimed to have seen him in Mississippi. Ed’s oldest brother, Willie Johnson, a west-sider, got three calls in the morning he feels sure were from Ed. The first time Willie answered, there was silence at the other end, and then the caller hung up. The second time, the caller said, “Willie,” and started sobbing; Willie recognized Ed’s voice, but Ed hung up before Willie could say anything. When Ed called the last time, there were detectives at Willie’s house; Willie says Ed hung up as soon as he heard the voices in the background.
Police surveyed motel parking lots for the Volvo. At 2:45 PM, Ed’s tac team boss, Sergeant Curtis Bonds, spotted the Volvo in the parking lot of the Regency Castle Lodge Motel, at 1140 W. 95th St. Ed hadn’t been here long; the engine was still warm. The desk clerk told Bonds Ed was in room 215.
Police converged on the scene. Englewood Commander James Ivory called Ed from the lobby on a house phone and tried to persuade him to surrender. Ivory says Ed told him “I love you, Commander. I love the Police Department and I love my fellow tac officers.” They had only spoken a minute when a loud pop resonated from the room.
Ed had put two guns to his head, one on each side, and fired them simultaneously.
“Ed used to say, ‘If I ever go out, I’m going out in a blaze,'” his partner Avila recalls.
A suicide note written by Ed arrived at WLS TV’s offices more than a week later. He had addressed it simply to “Channel 7–Chicago.” Ed blamed his actions on Selena’s involvement with the sergeant, says Jim Hattendorf, the Channel Seven news director who read the note. He also lashed out at police, apparently for not forcing the sergeant to stay away from Selena. Hattendorf forwarded the note to police.
The department has refused to disclose the note, or any records relating to the Johnsons, save for some of the homicide/suicide investigation reports. It rejected a Freedom of Information Act request I made last November seeking such records. My request was accompanied by a letter from the guardian of Muhammad and Zakiyyah–the Johnsons’ next of kin–authorizing the release of these records to me. The ACLU is reviewing the matter.
Selena Johnson was buried on Saturday, September 17, in Mount Glenwood Memory Gardens, in south suburban Glenwood. It was a large Muslim funeral, befitting the granddaughter of Elijah Muhammad, the late Black Muslim leader. (Her given name was Salma Muhammad; because people regularly mispronounced Salma, she chose to go by Selena.) “She was of blithe spirit, a wit and a very supportive person,” noted the funeral program, “always willing to give of her time to listen to and console a needy relative or friend.”
Ed Johnson was buried two days later in Washington Memory Gardens, in south suburban Homewood. “Edward’s most cherished accomplishment was when he became a Chicago police officer,” the funeral program said.
The Police Department was able to lay the homicide/suicide case to rest even before Selena and Ed. Ed’s admissions on the telephone, plus the children’s eyewitness accounts, left no doubt that it was he who had killed Selena. The case was closed, save for some paperwork, the day the couple died. The deaths were a lamentable thing, a real tragedy, police officials told reporters solemnly, but unpreventable.
“This wasn’t a murder murder, it was a nutso murder,” says Area Two detective Dan McWeeny, who investigated Selena’s killing. “It was an emotional thing. You know–he just flipped.”
But when a woman is slain, it’s quite frequently a “nutso” murder–the emotional, domestic type. According to the FBI, 29 percent of the women murdered in the U.S. in 1987 were killed by their husbands or boyfriends. (Six percent of the men killed died at the hands of wives or girlfriends.) But in Chicago, not even gangbangers pose the threat to males or females that loved ones do: street gangs killed 47 people here in 1987, while “domestic disputes” claimed 95, according to Chicago police. That total of 95 doesn’t include 20 “love triangle” killings and 21 child-abuse homicides.
Domestic slayings usually appear to be such aberrant, spontaneous acts that later it seems no one could have stopped them, certainly not the police. But family-violence experts say these “nutso” murders are often both predictable and preventable. Murders by spouses are almost always the culmination of a history of violence in the marriage. The homicide is usually preceded by death threats, and often the eventual killer also hints broadly to others what’s to come, if he doesn’t tell them plainly. Ed Johnson may have flipped, but it wasn’t overnight, as Detective McWeeny himself learned upon interviewing Ed’s coworkers and family members. “Everyone we talked to said the same thing–he was enraged about the family situation, and he’d been talking goofy for a long time.”
The toll of domestic violence goes far beyond the homicides, of course: there are many victims who never get killed, just thrashed for years. The toll also includes the thousands of children who grow up witnessing their father occasionally walloping their mother, a habit the sons are likely to imitate as adults.
There are no simple cures for a problem that appears to be so deeply embedded in a culture of sexual inequality. But one deterrent has proved effective: arrest of the offender whenever possible. Several studies have shown that arrest reduces the recidivism of batterers, at least over the short term. This is true even when cases are not prosecuted–which they almost never are. A few hours in jail convinces some batterers of the severity of their problem when warnings and admonishments have failed, domestic violence experts say. Batterers need a jolt like jail, the experts maintain, because like alcoholics and drug addicts, they typically minimize their problem or deny it exists; or they blame their violence on their victim.
In years past, the Chicago Police Department, like most police forces, expressly treated wife battering as a family matter and not a crime. Pressed by feminists and the mandates of new state laws, the department has in recent years revised its domestic violence policies. Officers no longer are taught to escort abusive husbands around the block, urging them not to slug their wives again; they’re instructed to bring ’em in and book ’em. Arrests are required whenever an injury has been inflicted and urged when a weapon is involved or previous calls for police service have been made. Officers are also required to write reports, whether they make an arrest or not. A training bulletin issued to officers last May says police must “act swiftly, enforce orders [of protection], and reduce the abusers’ access to the victim.”
What police actually do is another story, say advocates for battered women.
“Police officials may talk a good line to advocacy groups,” says Denise Markham, an attorney who until recently ran a domestic violence court-advocacy program for Hull House. “But on the line, they’re doing the same shit they did ten years ago. It would be wrong to say there hasn’t been progress. But for every woman who gets proper response from the police, there’s five who say, ‘I called police when he hit me, and they didn’t do anything–they didn’t even give me a report.’ We still have cases where the police pressure the woman instead of the abuser–‘If you call again, lady, I’m gonna come out and put you in the can.’ And they do!”
Selena may have had even more trouble getting help because her abuser was a cop, says Jeri Linas, former cochairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and assistant director of Rainbow House, a shelter for battered women. But in the way her pleas for help were ignored, Selena’s case was typical of that of many battered women, Linas says. “We still have trouble just getting police to respond to calls. What we hear repeatedly from women is ‘I called the police, but they never came’ or ‘They came three hours later’ or ‘I had to call five times.’ It’s like, ‘Did we wake up and it’s still 1980?'”
But according to Deputy Chief of Patrol Carl Dobrich, instances of officers neglecting their duties on domestic violence calls are “few and far between.”
Dobrich also doubts that cops who batter get any breaks from the fellow officers who handle those calls. “Not in this day and age,” he says. “You’re thinking of this as an all-male police department. We’re long gone from that.”
Responding officers are required to notify their supervisors whenever a cop is the alleged offender in a crime, Dobrich says, and the supervisor is usually the one who decides whether an arrest should be made. “And I don’t know of any supervisor who’s going to go out on a limb for an officer who he probably doesn’t know in the first place.”
Police officers I spoke with, though, described things differently. An officer from Ed’s Englewood district who requested anonymity says “When a policeman is involved in a domestic disturbance, you really don’t want to get involved. Who wants to lock up another policeman? It takes a lot of guts to do that. So you blow it off, so to speak, and hope nothing serious happens.”
Ed Johnson’s brother John, also a Chicago police officer, says supervisors often try to talk women out of filing charges when the crime is battering. “The supervisor will tell the wife, ‘Well, you’re gonna make him lose his job–you don’t want to do that.’ And she’ll say, ‘Oh, OK–let it slide.’ Then the supervisor just tells the guy to take a walk and cool off.”
“We tend to try to protect each other, instead of calling things the way they are,” allows Sergeant Bonds, Ed’s tac team supervisor.
More specifically, police protect the man, says a friend of Selena’s, Lorraine Kelly. “Selena was a police officer, too,” Kelly says. “But they treated her like just another hysterical woman, complaining about her loving husband.”
The case of Selena and Ed shows that the Police Department “has still not dealt with its own,” says Marge Jozsa, executive director of Rainbow House. “When a wife calls and says, ‘He’s beating me up, Commander, what are you gonna do about it?’–well, what’s the penalty going to be? Is he going to lose his job? Is someone going to say, ‘You have to get counseling if you’re gonna keep this job’? No–it doesn’t happen. They’re not able to do that to one another over something like beating your wife.”
Until the department starts dealing with its own, Jozsa says, its policy changes won’t matter. “How can you expect an officer to enforce the law and convey to another man that he can’t abuse his wife, when he goes home at night and beats up his–and nobody in the department says a word?”
Says John Johnson: “I work with guys who have domestic problems, and they bring them on the job with them. When we go on a domestic call they immediately side with the husband without even hearing the wife’s side of the story.”
Wife battering “goes on quite a bit with police officers,” Johnson says. “There’s another policeman right now who’s halfway off the job because of his drinking and beating his wife–chasing her out of the house and shooting up and down the street. And it seems to me that the department is bending over backwards to keep him on the job.”
There is no hard evidence that spouse battering is more common among police officers than in the general population. Cops do have higher rates of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide, though, so a higher rate of battering might not be surprising. Advocate Jeri Linas believes the guns cops have at their disposal make it easier for arguments to escalate to serious injury or homicide. Newspaper clips show that at least three Chicago cops have killed their wives and then themselves since the beginning of 1988.
After Ed killed Selena and himself, John Johnson talked to some of his brother’s fellow officers in the Englewood district. He wasn’t surprised to learn that Ed’s volatile nature and his distress about his marriage were known by many at the station, but that no one did much but watch fate unfold. Police did what they do so well in such situations, John says: they minded their own business.
Shortly after the homicide/suicide, the Chicago Defender asked Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin (who declined my request for an interview) how he was combating wife battering by his officers. “I’m trying to get them not to pal around with each other during their off-hours,” Martin responded. “All we do is trade war stories, and it doesn’t relieve the stress. If we develop other interests, it serves as a release.”
The department will act against an officer who is “misbehaving with his family,” Martin told the Defender, “once his behavior affects his work.”
Linas, who read the Defender article, found the superintendent’s comments “unconscionable. He’s the chief of police in a major city, and he’s talking about wife beating as ‘misbehaving.’ It’s clear he doesn’t really believe personally that this is a crime. When the top people have that attitude, it goes right down the ranks.”
Some of Ed’s relatives say Selena may have brought her troubles on herself. Though she wasn’t an ardent practitioner of her Muslim faith, she could be uppity about her background, they say; maybe that made her hard to live with. Ed’s brother-in-law Robert Kilpatrick believes it was actually Selena who was battering Ed; at least that’s what Ed told him. Selena’s friends and relatives find that idea ridiculous. “I never saw bruises on [Ed] like I saw on her,” Lorraine Kelly says. Ed’s brother John says Selena probably fought back more after she became a police officer in 1987, but given Ed’s jealous nature and alcoholism, he doesn’t doubt Ed was the batterer that neighbors and Selena’s friends and family members say he was.
A few of Ed’s relatives also fault Selena for getting involved with that sergeant in her district. The nature of this relationship is unclear, Selena’s friends insist that if it was indeed romantic, it didn’t become so until after Selena had filed for divorce. Even Ed’s relatives allow that in the 15 years of marriage up to that point, Selena had, by all indications, remained entirely faithful to her husband. Ed, on the other hand, “was no angel,” John Johnson says. “He had his girlfriends–he spoke of them.”
If police had ever arrested Ed when Selena called them, if his bosses had given him desk duties when he started “talking goofy,” and if they had required counseling instead of suggesting it–maybe the tragedy never would have occurred, friends and relatives of both Selena and Ed say. They are furious the police didn’t act until it was time to provide the body bags.
“The police did not respond until half her brain was splattered over the bedroom,” Selena’s oldest brother, Nate Muhammad, says. “He done shot her eight times–they come then, they rush then, But it’s too late then, she’s dead. They can’t bring her back to us. They didn’t protect her while she was here.”
Police officials “have blood on their hands,” Lorraine Kelly says. “They should have stepped in just like if he had took a bribe. If he had took a bribe, they would have been all over him.”
In trying to convince police officials to help her, Selena “was just wasting her time,” Kelly says. “They should have just told her, ‘Protect your own self.’ Then she would have known to keep her gun on her at all times, like Jesse James.”
“She was crying for help,” one of Ed’s sisters, Louella Williams, says. “And in his own way, he was crying for help. And they [police officials] didn’t see a problem? They said, ‘It’s a family matter, we shouldn’t step in it.’ Somebody should have thought, ‘We’d better step in.'”
Ed liked to bowl and swim and cheer for Chicago’s sports teams. He enjoyed tinkering on his beloved red-and-white ’69 Chevy Camaro. He kept his house in repair and the lawn and yard were flawless. He was “strong-minded and proud,” Robert Kilpatrick says. “He was the type of person who liked his stuff just right. He would trim his grass perfect. He’d see my grass, he’d almost puke.”
Selena couldn’t have been luckier, Kilpatrick feels: she had a husband anxious to fulfill her every need. “If I was a woman, I wouldn’t mind marrying a man like Eddie. He was the type of man that takes care of what’s his.”
Ed was “very possessive,” his brother John says. “Everything to him was a possession–‘This is my house, this is my wife, these are my kids, I own them.'”
He grew up in a family of 11 on the down-and-out near west side. The long hours his father, James, toiled at menial jobs yielded just enough for the clan to eke by. (“Chicken wings and chicken feet all week long,” John remembers.) James Johnson–77 now and living in a nursing home–ruled the family “with an iron fist,” John says. “He’d come home drunk, and he and my mother [now deceased] would get into arguments. He’d talk crazy, and he might push her around, but he never beat my mother. But he would beat us–he would take his frustrations out on us. You could never reason with him.” John says when he was drunk, the whippings, administered with a belt, could be fierce.
Childhood out on the streets of the west side was no gentler. Ed, John, and their four brothers ran with gangs throughout their youth. “It was more or less survival for us,” John says.
Eventually the Johnson boys gravitated toward police work and the military. Ed and John became cops; the oldest brother is a Cook County sheriff’s deputy; another is a Marine stationed in Japan; another was a Green Beret in Vietnam. The only other brother “learned how to use heroin when he was in the Army,” John says. According to John, he now lives in Milwaukee, where he’s been in and out of prison.
Ed got married for the first time shortly after he finished high school. The couple had two children before the marriage broke up, after about five years. Ed’s sister Louella lived with the couple for a time, and recalls their frequent fiery arguments. Ed would “storm out of the house and go away until he cooled off,” Louella says. “And then he’d come home and try to talk to [his wife] rationally.” The chief source of conflict, Louella says, was that Ed’s wife “wanted to come and go as she pleased–she didn’t want to be a mother. And Eddie was a homey-type guy.”
Ed found what he was looking for in Selena.
“You couldn’t have a finer mother,” says Ileen Kelly-Jones, Lorraine Kelly’s daughter. “She was concerned with her children’s education, their growth, their well-being. They had goals, they had responsibilities. She didn’t smother them with things, but she gave them a basic foundation.”
Selena grew up with four sisters and five brothers in the south-side neighborhood of Chatham. The family wasn’t affluent but it was distinctive: the children’s grandfather, Elijah Muhammad, was “the Messenger,” the man Black Muslims believed had been sent by Allah to awaken blacks in America.
Selena and her siblings went to temple twice weekly. They also attended the University of Islam School, then at 5335 S. Greenwood, from kindergarten through high school.
Muslim girls got a mixed message from the Messenger: He taught them to take pride in their moral superiority to the rouge-cheeked, glossy-lipped lower-class black girls, who swore, smoked, drank liquor, and dressed provocatively; but he also taught them to remember their humble status next to Muslim males. The Muslim girls wore long-sleeved, ankle-length dresses to school and covered their heads with white scarves; the boys wore suit coats or sweaters and ties. While boys learned judo and karate and how to be strong husbands and fathers in their “Fruit of Islam” classes, girls learned–in “General Civilization” classes–sewing, ironing, cooking, the basics of child rearing, and the importance of respecting and obeying husbands.
Selena’s parents argued frequently, and there were often slaps and shoves. The couple separated about the time Selena graduated from high school–in 1971–and they eventually divorced.
After graduation, Selena went to work as a checker in a Jewel food store at 87th and the Dan Ryan. Ed was employed there as a manager. They were married on February 18, 1973, in Selena’s mother’s house at 82nd and Saint Lawrence. The wedding was officiated by Selena’s uncle, Wallace D. Muhammad, who would become leader of the Black Muslims upon Elijah Muhammad’s death in 1975. Ed was 25, Selena 19.
Selena and Ed lived in a high-rise apartment on South Lake Shore Drive for a time, then with Selena’s mother while they saved for a house. Muhammad was born in 1976, and a year later the couple bought the place on Hamilton. Zakiyyah was born in 1980.
Ed was possessed by the green-eyed monster. When he came home from work, he sometimes did so furtively, Selena told friends. He’d park the car down the street and tiptoe in the back door. If she was on the phone, he’d eavesdrop on her calls.
He occasionally crossed the street to chat with a neighbor on Hamilton. Ed would quickly get to the reason for the visit. “Is Selena having any men over?” he’d want to know. “Have you seen any strange cars parked in front?” No she hadn’t, the neighbor would tell him. Selena rarely even had women friends over, this neighbor says. She spent little time outside; you only saw her when she was getting in or out of her car.
Selena seemed flattered by Ed’s jealousy in the early years of their marriage, says Lorraine Kelly, who worked with Selena at Jewel for 13 years. “She’d say something at work about some jealous thing he’d done–other women would look at each other and go, ‘I’d kill that son of a bitch.’ But to her, it was a flattery that this man could really want to possess her mind, her body, her soul–everything.”
Battering relationships often begin this way, writes Angela Browne in her 1987 book When Battered Women Kill. (Though Browne focused on women who ultimately slay their abusers, she contends that her conclusions apply to battering relationships generally.) The women Browne interviewed said their batterers were “the most romantic and attentive lovers they’d ever had” in the early stages of their relationships. The women at first viewed their partners’ constant monitoring of them as evidence of their love, Browne says.
Batterers typically expect to be betrayed, Browne writes, and are constantly on guard against this. Beatings often serve as “a warning or . . . punishment for imagined wrongs.” The expectation of betrayal usually stems from the abuse so many batterers experience or witness in childhood.
Friends and relatives aren’t sure exactly when Ed’s jealousy evolved into battering. Like most battered women, Selena did not confide in others immediately about the abuse. At its onset, abuse usually perplexes victims; they deny it or minimize it; they blame themselves. They fear the reactions of others, and with good reason: others, too, tend to minimize or dismiss the victim’s complaints, or wonder what she must be doing to provoke her husband.
From what Selena later told friends, the abuse unfolded in typical fashion: accusations by Ed of infidelity led eventually to shoves, slaps, and punches. He often belted her in her breasts, Selena said. Soon after a beating, he would apologize and promise never to do it again; he’d be so sweet and contrite that Selena just had to forgive him. Besides, he was usually drunk when he started dishing it out; the liquor was the culprit, Selena figured, not Ed.
Booze and drugs don’t cause battering, domestic violence experts say; not all addicts beat their lovers, and not all batterers are drinkers or dopers. But batterers do often drink to excess or use drugs, and the beatings they administer tend to be more frequent and brutal when they’re high. Ed’s relatives don’t know when Ed got hooked on alcohol. His brother John recognized it after Ed became a cop in 1985, though Ed tried feebly to hide it. He’d be sucking on a can of Coke when he dropped by John’s, but John could smell the booze in it.
Selena sometimes called police during or after a beating. Neighbors say they saw squad cars at the house numerous times through the years, and officers marching Ed out the door. But friends and family members think Selena declined to sign complaints against her husband until the last year or two. “I think she just asked them to get him out of the house,” her brother Nate Muhammad says. “And they would take him to the door and say, ‘You got to go.'”
Ed worked for Jewel for a time after he and Selena were married, and later as a welder. But his ambition was police work. He had passed the written test for the department in the late 60s, but he was never called. He took the test again in the early 80s, and became an officer in July of ’85.
The beatings became more frequent after that, friends and relatives say.
“That star and gun really turned him around,” Ed’s brother John says.
Ed lived and breathed police work once he became a cop. He’d stop by John’s and yak about his recent busts–the last thing John wanted to hear about. “Hey, I’ve been a policeman 17 years,” John would tell him. “You can’t tell me anything about police work.”
He got on the Englewood tac team about a year before his death. Tac work pleased Ed like no job he held before, John says. “He liked buying drugs with marked money, driving around in a company Corvette, all that stuff.”
Ed’s tac team boss, Sergeant Bonds, desrcibes Ed as a “zealous policeman. It wasn’t a problem, because that’s the type of policeman you need on a tac unit.”
Not all of Ed’s fellow Englewood district officers agree. “Nobody was crazy to work with him because of his John Wayne attitude,” says one, who requested anonymity. Where other cops used words, Ed used force, this officer says. He recalled how Ed handled one hostage situation. A man was holding a child in an apartment and threatening to kill him if police rushed in. “You generally try to talk the guy out of a situation like that before making any drastic moves,” says the officer. Instead, Ed said he figured the guy was bluffing, and he busted into the apartment. He apprehended the offender and no one was hurt; but Ed’s bravado could have resulted in serious injury to the child, another cop, or Ed himself.
Joe Avila, Ed’s partner during his year on tac, says though Ed was only of average size, “He wouldn’t back down from anybody.” Avila was glad to have an ambitious, aggressive partner like Ed. When they were originally assigned together, Avila told Ed he wanted them to be the number-one tac team in the Englewood district. “Hell, yeah, we’re gonna be number one,” Ed said. “We’re gonna tear these people up.”
And they did; for the first half of 1988, Ed and Avila were the most productive tac team in the district. They complemented each other, Avila says: “I was more of the talker, more of the persuader, where Ed would, you know–‘Hey, get your ass over here!’ and he’d clip ’em, stuff like that.” Ed probably had a little more than his share of excessive-force complaints lodged against him, Avila says, but you could always count on him to back you up.
That sense of power you can get as a cop intoxicated Ed, his brother John says. “He bragged about how they called him ‘Lock ‘Em Up Ed’ on the street, for being such a rough policeman. Here he had an opportunity to vent his frustrations and beat on people legally, which he was probably out there doing–you know, that’s the kind of policemen the bosses like, tough policemen. He liked that power. And he probably took that feeling home with him, that power.”
Lorraine Kelly suspected Selena was getting beaten at home before Selena started telling her about it. Heavy makeup couldn’t hide the puffiness on Selena’s face.
About five years ago, Selena “started breaking little things down to me,” Kelly says. “When she got really deep into what had been happening to her for so long, I could see it was like, ‘I want to tell you, but I value your opinion of me. And if I tell you what’s really been happening to me, you may say, well why would you be a fool?'”
She was brought up to believe the man ruled the house, she told Kelly, and so she kept mum when Ed started pushing her around. Then it became a pattern she couldn’t break. His temper and drinking also kept her quiet, she said,
Ed’s jealousy was no longer endearing–it was oppressive, Selena told Kelly. There was a reason she always wore her Jewel uniform to and from work, Selena said, even though coworkers kidded her about that. “If I were to go change clothes and look like a human being walking down the street, he’d say I was out with a man.”
When Selena heard that Kelly’s children were planning a surprise party for their parents’ wedding anniversary last August, she insisted on helping with the arrangements. Selena and Lorraine’s daughter Ileen were going over the plans one afternoon when Selena launched into a long discourse on marriage. Ileen had gotten married earlier in the year, also to a police officer, that’s what motivated the talk, Ileen thinks. A recent beating Selena had sustained also may have prompted the lecture, Been says. “She had a lot of makeup on, but you could see the swelling and the way she was kind of talking out of the side of her mouth.”
For two hours, Selena warned Ileen of the pitfalls of marriage. “You marry because of love, and you see stars and all that,” Selena told Ileen. “But if you don’t be your own person, put yourself first, the next thing you know, you’re somebody’s whipping dog. Once you get into a pattern you’ll always be in it–you don’t recuperate from it.”
The speech startled Ileen; Selena had never talked to her this way. “I just want to make you aware of some things,” Selena told her. “I didn’t learn these things until after the fact. My eyes weren’t open. I want to make sure your eyes are open.”
It was police training that had really opened Selena’s eyes, Ileen and Lorraine say.
She took the training in 1986, at Ed’s prodding. This was a big mistake, Avila says; police officers need to have a take-charge attitude, and “to have two personalities like that in one family–it can cause too many problems.” Ed had to know the job also would expose Selena to many more men. But while powerfully jealous, he also “was always thinking of money,” John Johnson says, and he knew Selena could make a lot more as a police officer than as a checker.
She completed every requirement with her class but one: she could not scale a six-foot wall. Many cadets find the wall their toughest hurdle. Selena’s bustiness made her “top-heavy,” Kelly says, which made climbing the wall especially hard.
Ed erected a wall in the Johnsons’ garage for Selena to practice on. But he also ragged on Selena endlessly for not managing to scale it. Kelly says “He told her, ‘Even a damn fool can jump the wall.'” Selena tried everything: like many cadets she sprayed a sticky substance on her shoes and on the wall before attempts to scale it; she consulted with gymnastics instructors. Still, no luck. She’d come home crying; “Nope–I didn’t make it,” she’d tell Kelly on the phone. Kelly and her daughters lit candles for her at their church.
Then one evening early in 1987 Kelly got a call from a euphoric Selena. “Guess what? Call all the kids and let ’em know. I went over the wall!
“This is the first thing I’ve done since I’ve been married that Ed cannot take credit for,” Selena told Kelly. She gleefully described how her ears had rung with the cheers and applause of a class of cadets when she made it over–and how her thoughts had turned immediately to her situation at home.
“When I came down on the other side, the first thing I thought was, ‘That son of a bitch ain’t gonna hit me no more,'” Selena said. “I’m not gonna let him beat me to death.”
Selena waited too long to decide she was through tolerating Ed’s abuse, Kelly says; the marriage was already beyond repair. “For so many years this man beats your butt, and you still jump up in the morning to fix his breakfast,” Kelly told Selena one day. “Then you turn around all of a sudden and say, ‘Eddie, I don’t like this no more’–you think he’s gonna change?”
A host of factors keep battered women tied to their abusers long after they should have left–among them money, kids, love. Some women are simply terrified by the retaliation they fear will occur if they leave. The fear is well-founded: studies indicate many domestic homicides occur shortly after separation. Still, leaving is the best bet, domestic violence experts say: until the woman does so, the abuse is more likely to escalate than stop. But it’s hard for a woman to leave when friends, family members, ministers, and others urge her to hang in there and work it out.
Selena’s Muslim background played a role in her sticking by Ed so long, Kelly thinks; particularly the deference to males that was stressed to her as a child, even more than it is to most girls. Sorrowful memories of her parents splitting after 21 years may also have motivated her to stay, her brother Nate says. And there probably was some genuine affection remaining for the man she had spent so many years with; abusers aren’t usually monsters around the clock. “I think she really loved him,” a friend of hers says. “When he wasn’t drinking, most of the time Ed was a pretty nice person.”
In January Ed rang in the new year of 1988 by slugging Selena in the jaw. The blow cracked several teeth, Kelly says, and Selena had to get an upper plate put in.
On May 24, Ed and Selena attended a party at a south-side club honoring an officer who had just been elevated to commander. Late in the evening, Ed suddenly exploded when Selena was dancing with another man. “He grabbed my arm, called me a bitch and ordered me to leave with him,” Selena would later write in her divorce affidavit. “I left to keep him from making a bigger scene. He cussed me out on the street and told me to go back to the nigger. I went home.”
Ed told Avila about the incident the next day. “He felt he’d been upstaged in front of other people,” Avila says. “I think I’d have done the same thing–you know, I’m not going to walk away with my tail between my legs.”
It was six days later that Ed pulled his gun on Selena while they were driving home.
The police officers in the unmarked car that happened upon the couple and drove Selena home could have arrested Ed for aggravated assault–threatening Selena with a gun. Even if Selena had said she didn’t want Ed arrested, or if Ed had denied her charge, the officers were obligated, by state law, to at least write a report on the incident. No such report is on file, and police spokesperson Tina Vicini says it can’t be determined now who the officers were.
Three or four weeks after the Memorial Day incident, Ed told Sergeant Bonds, his tac team boss, he had something to confess to him. They drove to a restaurant to talk. “He told me he had drawn a gun on [Selena], and the police had got involved,” Bonds says. Ed told him a deputy chief had intervened in the matter. Bonds says he doesn’t know which deputy chief, whether he intervened at the scene or later, or what exactly he did.
Bonds counseled Ed “to stay away from [Selena] as much as he could,” he says. Bonds didn’t inform his commander, James Ivory, about the gun-pulling incident; he assumed Ivory knew. “Everybody knew about it–people that were my superiors, people that were lateral to me,” Bonds says. “I assumed that it eventually got to my boss.
“In the Police Department, there’s a grapevine,” Bonds says. “We know each other’s personal lives more or less. If you do anything unusual, word gets back. And when it gets back, it filters to our bosses, officially and unofficially. How they handle it after that–I don’t want to get involved in that.”
Commander Ivory says he heard nothing about Ed pulling a gun on his wife, or, at that point, about any problems between Ed and Selena. “As a commander, I seldom come in contact with line officers,” he says. “And the only way I am notified of something of this nature is if the supervisor himself [Bonds, in this case] recognizes some deviant behavior and makes me aware of it, or if a complainant brings this to my attention.”
When Selena insisted Ed move out after the Memorial Day episode, Ed began staying with the Kilpatricks.
Before he moved in with them, Ed told the Kilpatricks he was an alcoholic. They expressed disbelief; still today, they feel Ed’s “alcoholism” was a figment of Selena’s imagination. “I had never known him to go to taverns and hang out,” Robert Kilpatrick says.
But Sergeant Bonds, himself a recovering alcoholic, knew what Ed’s morning jitteriness meant. Plus, when Ed first came on tac, Bonds says some mornings you could plainly smell the alcohol on his breath. Bonds urged Ed to seek help. Ed later reported visiting the department’s alcoholism counselors a few times, but Bonds didn’t check on him to make sure he went regularly. “That was personal,” he says. (The department won’t say how much alcoholism counseling Ed actually received.) Avila says he believed Ed had gone on the wagon after the Memorial Day incident; there weren’t any signs at work of his drinking, he says, and Ed had told him he had quit to save his marriage. Ed may indeed have cut down, but he wasn’t abstaining; he nipped at a bottle in his room at times when he lived at the Kilpatricks’, Robert says.
“I don’t want no divorce,” Ed told the Kilpatricks over and over. “I just want to get back together with Salma–I love her, I love my kids.”
The Kilpatricks advised Ed to “pamper” Selena a little more, Robert says–to buy her flowers, take her to shows. But when Ed would try this, “nothing would come up,” Robert says. “Every time he’d get up to bat, she seemed to strike him out.”
Ed’s gung-ho attitude about work had vanished by July; he reported to the Englewood station seeming morose and preoccupied. Gone were the days of Ed and Avila topping all the tac teams in busts; their stats nose-dived. “I’d say, ‘C’mon, Ed, let’s go do this,'” Avila says. “He’d say, ‘Damn, Joe, I got so much shit on my mind–can you do the work for me?’ He had a couple of lawsuits on him, he had to go to OPS all the time, the thing with his wife–it was just coming at him from all angles.” Avila would cover for Ed, do some of his paperwork. Ed would say he had business to tend to, and drive off with the car. Avila knew he was probably going by his house.
Ed would caution Avila to be good to his own wife, not to make the mistakes he made. “He said he’d been ‘mentally cruel’ to her,” Aivila says. “He said he had restrained her from going out–going here, going there–that he had always done what he wanted to do–drinking, whatever. He never said he beat her.”
“I’m not a loser, Joe,” Ed frequently told Avila and other members of the tac team. “I went through one divorce. She’s not gonna leave me.”
“What do you mean?” Avila would ask him.
“If I can’t have her, nobody’s gonna have her.”
Avila sometimes wondered whether he should do something about Ed’s not-so-veiled threats. He and Ed would be surveilling a dope house, say, and things would be quiet; he’d get to thinking about how he might be working with a potential murderer. But then the action would pick up on the surveillance, and the thought would drop from his head.
Ed’s fellow tac officers advised him to just forget Selena and find someone else. “See that girl? She’s just another pussy,” a tac officer told him one day, pointing to a woman in the station. “See that one down there? That’s just another pussy too . . .”
Ed had agreed to a court order in July giving Selena custody of the children and sole possession of the house. He did so on the condition that he and Selena see a Police Department marriage counselor–a concession Selena made reluctantly. Her divorce attorney, Evan Mammas, says Selena “just didn’t think counseling would rectify the problems.”
Selena’s instincts were good: according to most domestic violence therapists, trying to heal a battering relationship with marital counseling is a mistake. It’s the batterer, not the relationship, that’s at fault, the therapists say.
Counseling couples can even be dangerous, says Anita Varon, a Chicago psychotherapist who specializes in domestic violence. “When treatment begins, and the ugly part of a person is being exposed, he may be more prone to be violent to his partner if his partner is in treatment with him,” Varon says.
The Johnsons’ only joint counseling session occurred on the morning of August 4, when they were seen by Beverly Jackson, the director of the Police Department’s Professional Counseling Service.
Whatever occurred during the session, it didn’t please Ed. At work afterward he “was cursing up and down, saying, ‘Why in the hell should I go to those people,'” Avila says. Ed later told Robert Kilpatrick that Selena had called him a liar in front of the counselor, humiliating him.
Ed came to the house on Hamilton immediately after the session. He shoved Selena several times, and knocked her to the kitchen floor, Selena would later charge in court. Selena called police, and Ed fled. He was charged with battery. The officers noted in their report that Selena had a court order prohibiting such abuse.
Based on the August 4 incident, Selena filed a complaint against Ed with the department. The department won’t disclose exactly what she alleged in the complaint. It was referred for investigation to OPS, which later sent a letter advising Selena that her complaint had been thoroughly investigated, and that there was “not sufficient evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations.” The letter was dated September 27, two weeks after Ed killed her.
Selena also went to a domestic violence court at 13th and Michigan on August 12 and filed a battery complaint against Ed based on the incident. She obtained an order of protection prohibiting Ed from abusing or harassing her and barring him from the home. The order she had got through her divorce proceeding had those stipulations, too, but Selena’s divorce attorney advised her that an order of protection obtained through a criminal court might help her more: police could arrest Ed immediately even if he just showed up at the house. When this order was due to expire, on August 26, she returned to court and got it extended through October 19.
“I would like to start out saying I love you with all my heart and always will,” Ed wrote Selena in August. He never gave her the letter; Josephine Kilpatrick discovered it in a drawer in her home two months after her brother died.
“A lot of my ways are changing, and I have not had any drink since May 30, 1988,” Ed wrote.
“I am writing this letter to you to ask you to stop and see if we can work on some positive notes. I have made some gross mistakes since we have been apart but I don’t think they can’t be corrected.
“I gave you some money today because I made you a promise, and a promise I made you will always be kept. That is my first step. The second step is I will never put anyone before you ever and you will always be treated with love and respect.
“Salma, when I was drunk, I was becoming more and more insecure with our marriage. You mean too much to me. I was getting paranoid that you would leave me, and that fear may be ugly and push you away. I did not know at the time that drinking was making me even more insecure.
“You stated that I have acted ugly on August 4, 1988. No. I was acting and reacting to the words you said. I never knew words could hurt, plus I wish you would keep in mind that I was and still is desperate to come home. A lot of my past behavior and action has been with one thought and that was to get home, by hook or crook. You have shown me that you really do know me. Show me more please.”
Ed’s attempts to get home “by hook or crook” included those menacing late-night phone calls, and his surveillance of Selena. After she obtained her criminal order of protection, Selena could have asked police to arrest Ed many times; the calls and the surveillance constituted harassment under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. Instead, she now turned to the Police Department for help not in its criminal enforcement role but as an employer.
She told friends she first talked to her own commander, George Sams, and that he referred her to Ed’s commander, James Ivory. Sams says Selena never told him of her problems with Ed.
Selena met with Commander Ivory in late August. The meeting was brief, Ivory says–perhaps ten minutes. To hear Ivory tell it, Selena didn’t say Ed was threatening her life, had violated orders of protection, or was surveilling her on city time; “She just said she was extremely disturbed about him, and that she was afraid of him.” He told her to put her complaints in writing. “In order to conduct any intelligent pursuit of this,” he says, “I needed these things laid out.”
And so Selena wrote the September 2 letter that recounted the Memorial Day episode, the death threats, and the numerous other acts of harassment and abuse by Ed; the letter in which she said she feared for her life and needed help.
But Ivory says he was on vacation when the letter from Selena arrived. He says he didn’t see it until the day before the homicide/suicide.
After Selena had been in to see him, did Ivory talk to Bonds to determine if there was anything noteworthy about Ed’s behavior? “There really wasn’t time, because I went on vacation a few days later,” Ivory told me at first. He wanted to see Selena’s written report before he acted, he said. When I pressed him on the matter, Ivory told me he did talk “briefly” with Bonds, but that Bonds “gave no indication of any problem in [Ed’s] work performance.”
In contrast, Bonds says he never spoke to Ivory about Ed before the shootings. He says the commander “never said a word to me” about Ed, until after Ed killed Selena. He says he didn’t learn that Selena had been in to see Ivory until the tragedy occurred. “I guess he felt that [what Selena said in the meeting] was Ed’s personal life and it wasn’t really any of my business.”
Ivory says he couldn’t have done much even if he had received Selena’s letter sooner; it was up to IAD or OPS to decide if any discipline was in order. After Selena had been in to see him, “I did all I could,” Ivory says. He called Ed in for a talk in which he advised him to stay away from Selena and let the lawyers handle things.
But police supervisors don’t have to wait for disciplinary investigations to conclude before dealing with employees who exhibit behavior problems. If they see signs of alcoholism in an officer, for instance, they can order him to submit to a medical or psychological exam. If the exam shows the officer needs treatment, the department can place him on medical leave until he gets it, or assign him desk duties. The department can’t take a cop’s gun from him; service revolvers are owned by the officers. But they can take away his arrest powers, and thus his authorization to carry a gun. Pressed on this, Ivory acknowledged he could have taken other steps “if I had had time to conduct some sort of investigation” into Selena’s allegations.
In August, Ed began threatening the sergeant he thought Selena was seeing. He called him up and warned him to stay away from his wife. “You’re trying to break up my marriage, and I don’t like it,” Ed told him once, in a conversation he later related to Robert Kilpatrick. “I’m a cop, too, I can walk into your damn station anytime and blow your damn brains out.”
One afternoon Ed told Bonds he wanted to drive out of the district to take a look at a certain house–he didn’t say why. “Well, you’re on the clock, I don’t recommend you go over there,” Bonds told him. Then Bonds reconsidered; he knew what Ed was up to. “On second thought,” he told Ed, “I’ll ride with you.” When they got to the house, Bonds recognized it as the home of a Grand Crossing sergeant. “Ed, you got to tell me more,” Bonds said. “This shit about you driving out of the district, all over the city looking for houses–you’re not buying a house, what are you looking for over here?”
Ed told Bonds this was the home of the man Selena was seeing; that he had already told the man’s wife that her husband was dating his wife; that he was thinking of paying the sergeant a visit.
Bonds had heard Ed’s threats before. Ed had once told him that while he believed in God, he wasn’t as religious as Selena, and his lack of faith “would allow me to do certain things.” Bonds considered Ed’s threats “just idle talk.”
But Bonds knew Ed was serious about visiting this Grand Crossing sergeant. This was really getting out of hand, Bonds thought. He advised Ed to ask Internal Affairs to intervene instead.
So Ed lodged his own complaint with IAD, asking it to make the sergeant stay away from his wife. But an official at IAD “told him there was nothing they could do,” Bonds says. “They said it was a civil matter.
“I think that was the icing on the cake for him,” Bonds says. “IAD was investigating him, but when he complained about what she and somebody else were doing to him, he was told it was a civil matter, he should see his attorney. He thought everybody was against him and for her. So then I think he said, ‘Well, there’s nobody for me to turn to but God.'”
Selena stopped by Lorraine Kelly’s on Sunday, September 4. She gave Kelly a copy of the letter she had written to Ivory, and asked her to make it public if anything happened to her.
She told Kelly she was going away for a few days. Maybe police officials will have done something to rein Ed in by the time I return, she said.
She looked exhausted. She complained of headaches she said she hadn’t been able to shake since Ed had knocked her to the kitchen floor the month before. She talked about how stressful it was to see Ed lurking near the house some nights. “I cannot keep getting up in the morning knowing he’s waiting for me,” she said.
She left town on Wednesday, September 7. She and other officers from her district–including that sergeant–and others from around the city, attended a police convention in New Orleans hosted by a black organization. She had arranged for a neighbor’s 19-year-old daughter to stay at the house and sit for Muhammad and Zakiyyah; the girl’s mother said she would make sure the kids got off to school on time and home OK through the end of the week. The kids would spend the weekend with Lorraine Kelly.
Ed called his house on Wednesday night. Muhammad answered, and Ed asked to speak to Selena. “She’s asleep,” Muhammad said. Ed, suspicious, drove over to the house. The sitter told him Selena had gone out, but she didn’t know where. Ed was steaming when he got back to the Kilpatricks’. “She’s probably with that damn sergeant,” he told Robert.
For the first time in months, Ed came to work the next morning reeking of alcohol. His eyes were bloodshot. he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. “She’s with him, Joe,” he told Avila.
They had to go to the Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California that morning; they were witnesses in a robbery trial. They sat in a hallway from 10 AM to 1 PM but weren’t called to testify, and the case was continued to another date. They were walking out of the building when Ed started bawling. He got hold of himself after a minute, and Avila got him to their car. Then he broke down again.
“Go ahead, Ed, let it out, man, cry, don’t worry about it,” Avila told him.
And Ed did. When he was able to speak, he said, “If they was here right now, I’d do something crazy, Joe. If I ever do anything, don’t come looking for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just don’t come looking for me. You’re a good partner, Joe, I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Hey, don’t talk like that, man,” Avila said. “It’s not worth it. C’mon, man, let’s do something, let’s go shopping.”
“No–I’m all right now, Joe,” Ed said. “I got it all out of my system like you said.” He just needed a little time off, he said; maybe he’d go up to the Wisconsin Dells. “Relax, Joe–I’m gonna be OK.”
“Don’t bullshit me,” Avila said.
“I’m fine, I’m fine.”
“I said to myself, ‘Maybe I should take this guy’s gun,'” Avila says. “But I thought, what good would that do? I mean, if he really wanted to do something, he was gonna do it.”
Avila told Sergeant Bonds how Ed had broken down. Bonds says he, in turn, told his immediate’ supervisor–Lieutenant Willie Evans–what had happened, and that Evans then conferred with Ed.
Evans says Bonds never told him about Ed breaking down; he says he didn’t confer with Ed that day; he says he didn’t learn until after the homicide/suicide that Ed had been making threats.
Bonds drove around with Ed for a while that afternoon. Ed told him that he had found out Selena and the sergeant had gone to New Orleans. He had also found out what hotel they were staying in and on what flight they were scheduled to return, he said. He had the next four days off, and although he didn’t say it outright, Bonds knew he was considering going to New Orleans. Bonds again urged him to stay away from his wife.
Ed worked with Avila later in the day. In the evening, he and Avila drove around the corner at 67th and Loomis and saw a car backing down the street, fast. “Car thief?” Avila said. The car banged into a parked one, and two kids jumped out and tore down the street. Ed and Avila sprang from their car. Avila nabbed one kid, and the 41-year-old Ed chased down the other one, a 16-year-old–his last pinch.
Ed told Robert Kilpatrick that night he was going away for a few days. “I might drive up to Canada,” he said. “I just gotta be by myself.”
“Yeah, but don’t go looking for Selena,” Robert said; “’cause if you find her with this man, you know somebody’s gonna get shot.”
Kilpatrick didn’t see him again until Sunday. Neither he nor Avila knows where he was in the interim.
Selena returned to Chicago Sunday afternoon, and stopped by Kelly’s to pick up Muhammad and Zakiyyah. She looked like a new person. “Oh, I’m feeling so much better,” she told Kelly. “Just getting away from all this pressure–I don’t have that throbbing in my head. I think I’m getting a grip on myself now.”
Kelly was struck by the jubilant greeting Muhammad and Zakiyyah gave Selena–the exuberant hugs and kisses, as if their mother had been away a year. “She hasn’t been gone that long, what’s wrong with y’all?” Kelly teased.
“Oh, Mama, we’re just so glad to see you,” Zakiyyah said. “Mama, are you all right?”
Selena smiled widely. “I am now, baby, I’m much better. Y’all don’t have to worry no more.”
But there was something haunting about how tranquil Selena looked, sitting in that living room armchair from which she had so often vented her distress. It gave Kelly chills. “She seemed happier that day than I’d seen her in years,” Kelly says. “Her voice had changed, her attitude had changed.” While Selena chatted with one of Kelly’s daughters, Kelly walked back to her bedroom and started crying. “You know she’s dead, don’t you?” she told her husband, Richard Kelly. “Why would you say that?” he asked. “Go out there and look at her,” Lorraine told him. “She’s laying back there in that chair just like she’s dead and she’s at peace.”
Kelly’s premonition may have been prompted by the call she had got from Selena’s neighbor–the sitter’s mother–just before Selena arrived. The neighbor had told Kelly Ed had come by the house and then called her, and that he knew Selena wasn’t around. “I’m just afraid this is going to be it this time,” she had told Kelly, “because he’s talking crazy on the phone.”
Selena’s calm wouldn’t last long. A few minutes after she got home, Ed came in the back door. (“He had to be staking out the house,” Kelly says.)
According to what Selena later told Kelly and another friend, the following transpired:
She was on the phone with her mother; the back door was open because the kids were bringing their things in from the car. She looked up and saw Ed, standing in the kitchen.
She told her mother she’d call her back, and hung up. Ed shoved her across the kitchen. She tried to phone police, but Ed wouldn’t let her. He had his gun in his belt, and he put his hand on it.
Then Muhammad and Zakiyyah came in the back door.
“Ed–not in front of the kids,” Selena pleaded.
“Well you know you gonna get it,” Ed said.
“Yeah, but not in front of the kids.”
Ed shoved Selena again, but then Muhammad intervened. He stepped between his parents and wrapped himself around his mother. “You’re not gonna beat my mother today,” he said. He started edging Selena toward the back door. He got her outside, and then he and Zakiyyah took off across the street to the neighbor’s house. “My daddy’s back and he’s fixing to hurt Mommy!” Muhammad told the neighbor. She called the police.
Ed issued more threats, then bolted from the scene. The first of several squad cars arrived a few minutes later.
He was charged with battery again. The responding officers’ report reads: “The offender, a police officer, and the victim, also a police officer, were having ‘words’ when the offender grabbed and shoved the victim and made numerous threats against her life.” The officers noted that Ed had violated an order of protection. Officer Marlin Nimocks of the Gresham district, one of the responding officers, says he would have arrested Ed had he still been on the scene “but since he wasn’t there, there was nothing I could do.”
When a batterer or a violator of an order of protection flees before police arrive, the officers ordinarily will not pursue him unless they’re fairly certain where he is, and it’s nearby. In this case, police had Ed’s current address, which was just ten blocks away. There were also the death threats to consider, and the fact that Ed was carrying a gun. In such cases, a supervisor can decide that an attempt to arrest should be made. Nimocks notified the supervisor on duty in his district, Sergeant George Boone. Boone would not discuss the matter directly with me; but he told police spokesperson Vicini he didn’t have Ed arrested because Selena was unwilling to sign a complaint against him. I asked Officer Nimocks whether Selena had wanted Ed arrested. “I can’t answer any questions about that,” Nimocks said. “I could get jammed on this.”
When the Kilpatricks returned home early Sunday evening from an outing, Ed was back. Robert found him sitting on the bed in his room. There were tears in his eyes, and his face was flushed. Robert sat next to him and put an arm around him.
“I called over to the house–Muhammad slammed the phone in my ear,” Ed began. “I drove over there, saw my daughter playing in the yard–when she’d see me, she’d run in the house. It’s like I got the plague or something.”
Ed told Robert he had gone by the house that afternoon to talk with Selena, and that they had got in each other’s eyes again. “She was arguing and fussing with me, threatening to shoot me, and then she called the police,” Ed said.
Ed said he had talked to a Gresham district sergeant after fleeing. “I told him what went down,” Ed said to Robert. “He told me not to worry about it.”
The Kilpatricks were heading back out to a Baker’s Square restaurant for dinner, to celebrate a daughter’s birthday. Ed wanted to stay home, but Robert convinced him to join them.
At the restaurant, Ed kept telling Robert and Josephine how he just wanted one more chance from Selena. “All I want to do is get back in the house prove I’m a changed man,” he said.
“What else can you do for her, Eddie?” Robert said.
“Well, I’ll do anything to get her back.”
But if he couldn’t have her, no one was going to, he told Robert. “When we get the divorce,” Ed said, “I think I’ll kill her. I’m gonna kill [the sergeant], and I’m gonna kill [Selena’s supervisor Annise] Fuller.”
This wasn’t the first time Ed had said such things to the Kilpatricks; a couple weeks before, he had talked about killing Selena, the sergeant, and himself, and then sending notes to Channels Two, Five, and Seven explaining his motive.
“Eddie, what are you talking like that for?” Robert said now at the restaurant.
But Robert could tell Ed wasn’t joking. “I was just hoping I had enough time to talk him out of it.”
Selena was doing some laundry in her basement Monday evening when Lorraine Kelly called.
Selena had worked Monday, but she had Tuesday off, and Kelly knew it. Kelly didn’t think Selena should stay in her house alone on Tuesday. Selena had several phone calls to make in the morning, she said: She wanted to call Commander Ivory to make sure he was aware of the Sunday incident, and to see if her September 2 letter was going to prompt any action; and she planned to call Internal Affairs to find out why no one had contacted her yet about her formal complaint against Ed. “Since no one’s coming to me, I guess I’ll have to go to them,” she told Kelly. Kelly suggested that Selena come over to her house the next day to make the calls. Selena quickly accepted the offer. “I don’t want to stay in this house by myself under any circumstances,” she said. “I’ll get all my papers together, and as soon as the kids leave for school tomorrow morning I’ll be over.
“Now, don’t worry anymore about me,” Selena said. “I have locked up all the doors. Just let me finish this one last load of clothes.”
Around 10 PM, another friend of Selena’s phoned. She prefers anonymity–call her Dorothy Howard. Howard and Selena, who had attended grade school and high school together, spoke to each other frequently on the phone. They talked for nearly two and a half hours this night. Selena kept going over the Sunday incident. “She felt her life had been in jeopardy,” Howard says. “She said Eddie had put his hand on his gun three times. She thought that if Muhammad had not intervened, Eddie may have shot her. She was telling me how proud she was of Muhammad for standing up to him.
“She said she thought the police should have arrested Eddie,” Howard says. “She thought the purpose of the order of protection was so he could be arrested if he continued harassing her. She knew that since they didn’t arrest him, he just might come back.”
It was nearly 12:30 AM when they said good-bye. “I love you–you know that, right?” Selena said before hanging up.
“Yes, I know that,” Howard said. It was odd to hear this from Selena. “She didn’t say she had a feeling something was going to happen,” Howard says. “But I wondered.”
Robert Kilpatrick was watching a football game that Monday night when Ed came in. He looked as glum as he had the day before. “How you doing, Robert?” he said. Then he looked Robert in the eyes. “Robert–you know I love you. I never told a man before that I love them. But I love you.”
It was supposed to rain that evening, and so Robert went out front to close the windows to his truck. He was going to head back in up the rear stairs when he found Ed out back, leaning against a gate and staring blankly up at the sky.
“Man, I need to go for a drive,” Ed said.
“Do you want me to go with?”
“Robert, I think I need someone to go with.”
Ed drove. He stopped at Prestige Liquors at 79th and Hoyne and picked up a half pint of Canadian Club and a couple cans of Coke. Robert said he didn’t care for anything. Back in the car, Ed downed some Coke, then poured a little whiskey into the can. They sat in the parked car and chatted, Ed sipping his drink.
Two men approached, beers in hand, admiring Ed’s Camaro. Ed beamed. One of the men had an ’87 Pontiac Firebird in the parking lot; Ed got out and looked it over, and they exchanged compliments. For an hour, they talked about engines and accessories. Ed told them how he had just had the Camaro repainted and a new engine put in. He looked happier than he had in weeks.
The liquor store was just three blocks from Selena and Ed’s house. Since they were so close, Ed told Robert, he wanted to go check on the house. He parked the car in front, then walked to the back of the house and opened the garage door. His cheeriness had disappeared when he returned to the car. Selena’s car was gone, he told Robert. “I’ve got a feeling she’s out with that man again.”
He told Robert he wanted to drive by the Grand Crossing police station, at 70th and Cottage Grove, and see if she was there. They cruised by, but Ed didn’t see her car.
“Now I’m gonna show you where the sergeant lives that she’s messing with,” Ed said.
“Well, if that makes you feel better, sure,” Robert said. Robert was thinking, Let him do what he wants to do–it’ll ease his mind.
Selena’s car wasn’t at the sergeant’s house either. Nor was it at Annise Fuller’s, which he checked out next.
It was past 1 AM now, and starting to rain. “Let’s go back home,” Ed said. He had continued drinking the whiskey and Coke, but “he didn’t drink anywhere near the whole bottle,” Robert says.
They got on the Dan Ryan, northbound. “He was driving OK at first,” Robert says. “But I could tell his mind was somewhere else.” He started picking up speed: soon they were doing more than 70. Through the rain, Robert saw a stalled car ahead on the right shoulder, just past the 83rd Street exit, with several people standing around it. Ed was veering right toward it. “Ed, watch out!” Robert shouted.
Ed jammed on the brakes and yanked the wheel; the car spun a full circle on the expressway. Another car slammed into the Camaro from behind, driving it onto the right shoulder, where it came to a stop; a third car, trying to avoid the first two, slammed into the guardrail on the right side of the expressway.
“You damn near killed us!” Robert yelled.
Ed and Robert were shaken but unhurt. The most serious injury was a bump on the forehead sustained by the driver of the second car. The front end of this car was bashed in. The right rear quarter panel of Ed’s car was banged up. There was only minor front-end damage to the third car.
They stood on the shoulder and waited for the state troopers. “Listen,” Ed told Robert. “I can’t take no more heat. I’m not drunk, but I’ve been drinking. Can you take this rap for me?”
“I ain’t even got my license,” Robert said. But he agreed to say he had been driving. (“I figured he didn’t need no more problems.”)
Ed stared forlornly at the rumpled quarter panel of his car. “Damn, look at what I done,” he said. “You know, I always said you could have this car.”
“Eddie, don’t say nothing like that–I don’t want your car,” Robert said.
Ed told the state trooper who arrived that he was a police officer, and the trooper asked him to hand over his gun. Ed did so meekly. (“If he hadn’t been drinking,” Robert says, “he might have told the trooper to get laid.”) Robert told the trooper a car in front of them had changed lanes suddenly and cut them off. He had hit the brakes and spun out, he said.
The trooper smelled the alcohol on Ed’s breath, and asked him if he had been drinking. “Yes, I been drinking a little bit, but I’m not high,” Ed said.
“Now, who was driving?” the trooper asked. But Robert and Ed insisted Robert had been driving.
The trooper wrote his report, then returned to the car. “I don’t know why you want to cover for this guy,” Robert says the trooper told him. “Well, you’re a policeman, you know how it is,” Robert says he replied. “You know how you can get suspended for something like this. If you were driving and I was in the car, I’d take the rap for you, too.” Besides, Ed’s drinking hadn’t caused the accident, Robert says he explained; Ed had just been preoccupied with some problems he was having at home. The trooper returned Ed’s gun, and Ed and Robert drove off, with Robert at the wheel.
The trooper could have arrested Ed for driving under the influence if he believed Ed had indeed been driving, says Master Sergeant Charles Schwarting, public information officer for the state police. Under that circumstance, he also could have retained Ed’s gun, Schwarting says, “but all we have is what the brother-in-law is saying after the fact.” Because of the “possibility for future litigation,” the department will not make the trooper available for comment, Schwarting says.
Robert and Ed drove straight home. Ed told Robert to go ahead in–he wanted to drive around some more. “Hell no, Eddie, we had our fun for the night,” Robert said. He convinced Ed to come inside.
Ed went down to the basement to do some laundry. Robert was just climbing into bed when he heard Ed slip out the back door and drive off. It was about 3 AM.
It seemed to Robert that he had only barely fallen asleep when he was awakened by the telephone, at 4:20 AM. It was Ed. “I just killed Salma,” he said.
Robert was dazed, still waking up. “No–wait wait wait–no you didn’t, Eddie.”
“I just shot her eight times in the head,” Ed said. “I want you to come and take care of my kids.”
He really did it, Robert thought, shivering. (“I got so cold inside–I felt like ice.”)
“I still love her,” Ed told him. Then he hung up.
Lorraine Kelly has fought depression since Selena’s death. What gnaws at her most is the thought that Selena “didn’t have a chance to live a fulfilled life. I know she wanted to live a different life, and I think she was on her way to it.”
The loss of Ed “put a burden on me,” Joe Avila says. “To work with somebody like that for a year, and then have him suddenly taken away–it’s hard. And the way it occurred: all the good work Ed did, they don’t remember him for that. They remember him for being a murderer.”
Psychotherapist Varon says the Johnsons’ case points out the need for a special domestic violence counseling unit within the Police Department. The unit, as she envisions it, would have a counseling group for officers who batter, and therapists who specialize in domestic violence. If such a unit existed, she says, supervisors might be more willing to make sure abusive officers get treatment; and if officers knew they’d be treated with their peers, they might be more receptive to such counseling, she thinks.
Battered-women advocates like the idea. Any large company could benefit from a domestic violence counseling unit, the advocates say; but it’s essential abusive cops get treatment, they assert, since cops are the ones who answer the calls for help from battered women.
Deputy Chief of Patrol Dobrich sees no need for such a unit. “We’re pretty close to having that right now, with our Professional Counseling Service,” he says.
But the Professional Counseling Service is focused primarily on alcoholism, says Wayne Delehanty, an alcoholism counselor who works in the unit. The unit’s staff consists of three alcoholism counselors, a supervisor of alcoholism services, a receptionist, and a director, Delehanty says. What training the director, Beverly Jackson, has in domestic violence is unclear; she declined my request for an interview.
The department also should increase the training it gives cadets in domestic violence, the advocates say. Police response won’t improve until officers better understand the causes, consequences, and characteristics of battering, the advocates maintain. Only two hours of a cadet’s training–out of more than 400 hours total–focus specifically on domestic violence, though by far the largest proportion of 911 calls to the department are for domestic disturbances. But two hours of training is more than enough, according to Deputy Chief Dobrich. “I would suspect we devote a lot more time to domestic violence situations than may even be warranted,” he says. “Domestic calls are simple procedures for a police officer. I just don’t know how much more training we could give ’em.”
Academy instructor Carol Majeske says training can better acquaint officers with their responsibilities, but it won’t necessarily change how they act. Officers come to their job with their own hardened attitudes. “It’s very difficult to work with someone’s mind and try to change their way of thinking in a very short period,” she says. Majeske believes attitudes will change, but not overnight. “Change is inevitable. The resistance to change is also inevitable.”
If he’s ever faced with another case like that of Ed and Selena, Commander Ivory says he doubts he’ll respond differently. “There was nothing we could have done to prevent it,” he says. “He was gonna do this anyway.”
“It most definitely could have been prevented,” Sergeant Bonds says. He faults department officials for not intervening; he also faults himself. What happened to Selena and Ed “will probably always be on my mind,” he says. If he had it to do over again, he says he’d recommend to his supervisors–in writing–that Ed be required to get counseling, and that he be confined to desk duties until his behavior and situation changed. “But then,” Bonds says, reconsidering, “that would have been meddling in his business.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Robert Goldstrom.