Last week an Uptown man found himself caught between a hail of bullets near the corner of Wilson and Malden around 3:30 in the afternoon. Thankfully, the man was able to escape being injured or killed by flooring his car through what appeared to be a gang fight.
The man did the right thing by calling 911. In fact, 23rd District police officers interviewed by News-Star, including the police commander, stated that other witnesses who observed the midday gun fight also called 911. Police confirmed that the incident had indeed taken place.
After meeting police officers at a nearby Walgreens, the man was taken back to the scene of the crime where several male suspects had already been rounded up by police.
From the back of a Chicago police squad car, the man was able to point out the shooters. Since no one was killed or injured, and there was no property damage, police told the man that the shooters could only be charged with a misdemeanor for discharging a firearm within city limits.
Weighing his options, the man decided not to file a complaint. He could not be anonymous and would have to show up to court, where his name and face would then become known to the alleged shooters. He said he would have been glad to file a complaint if he had not feared for his safety.
Before everyone jumps on the man for not "getting involved," there is a little thing called the United States Constitution that presumes innocence for all persons charged with a crime. It also guarantees the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial. The Constitution also grants the accused the right to face their accusers in a court of law.
Eighth-grade civics teaches us that the Constitution was written to protect innocent persons from being unjustly arrested or imprisoned for crimes which they did not commit.
Still, it seems unfair that a citizen trying to do right thing by reporting a crime to police would have to fear for his own safety, especially when he was the victim. Millions of guilty persons have escaped punishment by law when their guilt could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
The U.S. Constitution is certainly not a perfect document. Then again, it isn't a perfect world.