Archive for April 16th, 2018

Chicago Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A man who spent more than two decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted in a fatal arson as a teenager filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging Chicago police officers coerced his confession and conspired with others to manipulate witnesses and fabricate evidence.

Adam Gray, who was arrested at just 14 and had been sentenced to mandatory life without parole, was released from prison in May 2017 after Cook County prosecutors decided that advancements in fire science raised too many questions about his conviction for setting a fire in 1993 that killed two people on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Named in the 54-page lawsuit are seven former Chicago police detectives — five of whom are deceased. The defendants also include a former police officer, a former Chicago youth officer, a retired Cook County assistant state’s attorney, and a former fire marshal.

The suit alleges police detectives concocted and coerced a false confession from Gray after hours of illegal interrogation while refusing to allow him to see his mother and brother, who were at the station trying to talk to him. Instead, the suit alleged that detectives told Gray that his mother had told them she did not care about him and refused to come to the police station altogether. 

Also named as a defendant is the city of Chicago, which the suit alleges facilitated the police department’s long history of using physically and psychologically coercive interrogation tactics, leading to at least 70 wrongful convictions. 

Police and prosecutors had alleged that at the time of the fire, Gray was angry with a girl who lived in a two-flat in the 4100 block of South Albany Avenue because she had rejected him. The eighth-grader ignited an accelerant he poured on the enclosed back porch on the second floor and the stairs, according to investigators at the time. While the girl and her parents escaped, the second-floor tenants, Peter McGuiness, 54, and his sister, Margaret Mesa, 74, died.

At Gray’s trial, prosecutors focused on evidence that the fire had been intentionally set and the confession from Gray. Two fire investigators said they found alligator charring and deep burn patterns at the scene and concluded they were evidence of a hot fire set with an accelerant. A milk jug found in the alley behind the home contained what police believed was an accelerant. A gas station clerk said Gray bought gas shortly before the fire.

In a statement to police, Gray admitted to buying gasoline to set the fire, but he later denied the admissions, saying he confessed only because of pressure from the officers questioning him. Gray’s attorney said he had been questioned for seven hours and couldn’t endure the pressure.

The lawsuit alleges police at some point in the interrogation had obtained an empty milk jug and concocted the story about Gray filling it with gas. Tests revealed there was no gasoline or gas residue in or on the jug, the lawsuit states.

Gray’s path to having the charges against him dismissed has been a long one. While advances in fire science date to the early 1990s, around the time Gray was convicted, it took investigators years to embrace those changes. Instead they continued to investigate fires using methods they learned from veteran colleagues or gathered from their own experience, even though the practices weren’t rooted in science.

Today, those new rules are widely accepted by fire investigators, resulting in prosecutors and defense attorneys around the country reopening old cases to determine whether the fires at the center of them were, in fact, arsons. Many convictions have been set aside, including the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three young daughters.

A Tribune investigation of the case that year showed that Willingham’s conviction was based on faulty science. A state forensic science commission in Texas later agreed that the conviction was flawed, but Willingham’s prosecutor still stands by the conviction.

Gray’s attorneys spent recent years fighting his conviction based on the unreliability of the scientific testimony admitted at his trial. In 2016, prosecutors in then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s Conviction Integrity Unit concluded in court papers that Gray deserved another trial because of dramatic advances in fire science that partially invalidated expert testimony crucial to 1996 conviction.

Gray’s attorneys filed an appeal shortly after, and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office agreed to dismiss the charges, although the office did not weigh in on whether he was actually innocent of the crime.


New squad for Schaumburg (more)

This from Tyler Tobolt:

Schaumburg Squad 55 officially went into service today (4/16/18). I also throw in a photo of Squad 55A. 
Schaumburg FD Squad 55

Tyler Tobolt photo

Schaumburg FD Squad 55

Tyler Tobolt photo

Schaumburg FD Squad 55

Tyler Tobolt photo

Schaumburg FD Squad 55A

Tyler Tobolt photo

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Palatine Fire Department news

Palatine FD Press Release

click the press release to download a larger version

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Chicago FD Snorkel 6-6-1 history (part 5)

More photos depicting the Chicago FD Snorkel 6-6-1 history

Chicago FD Engine 5 and Snorkel 1 working a 5-11 Alarm fire

Larry Shapiro photo

Chicago FD Truck 3 and Snorkel 1 working a 5-11 alarm fire

Larry Shapiro photo

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