After disabled Oak Park man is attacked, mayor apologizes

Police Chief LaDon Reynolds launches internal investigation into police handling of Dec. 20 incident

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Police Department has opened an investigation into its handling of an alleged assault against a developmentally disabled African American man by his white neighbor – a case that prompted an apology from Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and intense discussions among residents about a range of pressing local issues, such as systemic racism and the treatment of Oak Park's most vulnerable and marginalized residents.

The incident happened Dec. 20 in the 100 block of North Humphrey Avenue. The alleged victim, Isaiah "Peanut" Sims, 23, said he walked outside of his apartment complex and knocked on the door of a car he thought was the Uber waiting to drop him off at his job at Rush Oak Park Hospital.

"I saw the car pull up and thought it was an Uber," Sims said in a recent interview. "I knocked on the door three times and that's when [the man] came out and attacked me. He punched me in the eye six times."

Sims is the older brother of Elijah Sims, the Oak Park and River Forest High School student who was fatally shot in 2016 while riding his bike home from Chicago's Austin neighborhood, where he had been visiting friends.

Sims' mother Sharita Galloway said that she witnessed part of the reported attack before calling police. When the responding officers came, however, she said that they first approached the alleged attacker, a 39-year-old man, who lives down the street from her family, even as her son was lying on the ground. Galloway and Isaiah said that neither of them knew the man before the alleged attack happened, although Galloway said she sometimes would see him walking his dog.

"I was in my house lying on my bed and I heard a commotion outside," Galloway said in a recent interview. "I got up to look and saw a man getting off someone and, when he moved, it was my son laying in the grass. I was face-timing my sister. I already had one son get killed, so I was stuck, but she told me to hang up and call the police.

"I feel like we weren't treated fairly, because when I called the police and when they came down the street, the white guy, the attacker, raised his hand and the police addressed him first before addressing us," Galloway said.

"Once a sergeant came out and assessed the situation, they arrested the guy [but it seemed as if] they didn't want to arrest the guy," she said. "Clearly my son was beat up. He was spitting blood; his teeth were hurting. You can clearly tell my son was trying to get away from [the suspect]." Photos of Isaiah after the incident show his face visibly bruised.

Isaiah said that a postal worker in the area witnessed the alleged attack and had information demonstrating a pattern of similar behavior on the part of the man, and a neighbor was willing to speak about how Isaiah had also mistaken her car for an Uber in the past ("but she didn't beat me up"). Responding officers, however, were not interested in either person's story, Isaiah said.

"The lady told the police, 'If this helps, I [Sims] tried to get in her car before, but she didn't beat me up or anything. The mail man witnessed the incident and he tried to tell the police what happened, and the police told him that [his story] was irrelevant," Sims said. "They didn't want to hear his side at all."

The man was eventually charged with battery arrest. He was released later that day and is awaiting a court hearing. When reached for comment last month, the man declined to speak about the incident and left a threatening voicemail message for a Wednesday Journal reporter, who subsequently filed a formal police complaint.

In the days following the attack, OPRF teacher and activist Anthony Clark shared a photo and a summary of the incident on Facebook. Many members of Suburban Unity Alliance, the Facebook group and nonprofit Clark founded, rallied in support of Sims.

Clark is close to both Sims and Galloway, both of whom said the suspect continued to harass them and their family members after getting out of jail. The family has since filed a restraining order against the man and Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds said that he's "allocated additional resources" to the area where the alleged attack occurred.

"As a community member, I must say I have been disappointed in the overall response of the entire community," Clark said.

"Peanut is the sweetest person you'll ever meet," Clark said at the Jan. 21 village board meeting. "There's literally not an angry bone in his body … I hope you understand how dangerous it is for black men in this country, but that danger is magnified often when you're a black man born with a disability."

At Tuesday's meeting, Chief Reynolds said that he has spoken to Sims and Galloway, and "was very disturbed about what happened to him, not only because he was the victim of a crime, but I was not enthused about how we handled the situation, so I've opened up an internal investigation."

Some board members who spoke about the incident during the meeting expressed remorse and called for the village to understand public safety from the vantage point of its most vulnerable residents, particularly African Americans and individuals experiencing disabilities.

"I'm sorry," Mayor Abu-Taleb told Galloway, who was standing at the public comment dais. "I'm sorry about the loss of your son a few years back and I'm sorry about what Peanut went through in this situation … We want a community where everyone feels that they fit in, that they belong."

"Community safety and public safety only includes certain residents in Oak Park," said Oak Park resident Suzanne Fairfax during public comment. "It's not OK. We need to be taking into account the community safety of every single resident here and acknowledging we have a problem with racism … racism is systemic, and it has many, many tendrils."

Sims, who said that he's still living with the trauma related to the alleged attack, said that he hopes his story opens up a much larger dialogue in the village. He added that he's experienced an outpouring of support from community members, one of whom even approached him in the grocery store and offered a hug.

"I don't bother nobody; I'm a nice guy," Isaiah said. "I treat people with respect. I'm glad to tell my story. I don't talk about it all of the time, but when people bring this situation up, it shows that they care. I hope this reaches everyone dealing with a disability to show that we are human."


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Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: January 25th, 2020 9:56 PM

"is", not "isn't"

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: January 24th, 2020 4:21 PM

Bryan Rekarson I would like to remove your comment based on you using the word "boy", although you are welcome to your opinion in America. The victim is 23 year's old and is a man.The word, "boy", reminds me of the time in the Military, during a much different era than today. A trainee in the barrack's replied back to another, "If you see a boy, kiss his ass". The man was a Black man, and this was as South as it get's where I was training. I am assuming you read the story before using the word "boy", and if you did not read the story, take time and read a story before you make a comment. As for the rest of your comment's, in my opinion you lack enough real World experience to understand what other's go through

Kevin Wilkowsli  

Posted: January 24th, 2020 1:30 PM

I realize the victim is developmentally disabled, but has anyone explained to him to ALWAYS check the plate # of Uber/Lyft ride that is coming to get him

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: January 24th, 2020 12:14 PM

Dee Ally you have no idea of what I of my experience. People who know me have no idea. Check some time the education and experience the Chief of Police for Oak Park has. He worked hard to be in the position he is in now. Check the Mayor of Chicago. Check President Obama. Each person has one thing in common and that is education. They are more educated and more knowledgeable then 10's of thousand's of white privileged people. Remove your ignorance and find out it is through education and working through the obstacle's to achieve were you want to be. By the way, I have no idea what SMH although I do interpret your comment as nothing more than wanting to fight and I really do hope you will break through that and become a more peaceful person. By the way, I do not know what race you are and you are assuming my race since I never mentioned my race. You do not judge a person by race

Dee Ally  

Posted: January 24th, 2020 9:19 AM

Tommy McCoy, you sure have a lot to say about this subject How does it feel to be white, privileged and ignorant? Also, are you done trolling on Facebook now the WJ?? SMH

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 6:26 PM

Stacey Penelope Sheridan Thank you for explaining why the name was not released although Deb Brown must have felt it was her civic duty. As for this incident being racially motivated, that requires facts. I have been aware of known fighter's of different race's who for some reason would just start hitting another person regardless of their race. There is no excuse for having most likely at least 3 Officer's on that call not to ask after the situation was in control if he needed medical attention if that is what happened. Fact's are very important to have and that is terrific that the Chief, is going to gather the fact's. As for not knowing what car is an Uber or other type of carrier, take a look for the identifier on the vehicle although I know it happens that people will get into a car because some one started to get into my car. When I moved to Oak Park, year's ago, a person said when I become a victim of another race then I will learn to hate that race. My response to that person was, that mean's I have to hate my own race

Stacey Penelope Sheridan Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 4:00 PM

Hi there, WJ reporter here. We did not name the alleged attacker because it was a misdemeanor charge and we only report the name when a person is charged with a felony.

Deb Brown  

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 3:24 PM

Only one person was arrested for battery at that address on 12/20.

Rolin Waters  

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 3:15 PM

I would agree that the attacker should be named. But based on the details of this incident, I am also sure that this POS is both a coward and mentally ill. As such, any type of public shaming may result in a more violent episode.

Jen Purrenhage  

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 2:58 PM

Yes who is the alleged attacker? Why not named?

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2020 2:43 PM

Why is the suspect not identified? Is he a minor? Is he being protected for some reason?

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