Two kids had already been killed down the street from the apartment complex that would one day be the center of media attention when Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton would be murdered in his bed this same year. Teens from the Henry Horner projects had been protesting for months, a little over a year to be exact, for a traffic signal at the corner of local schools and health clinic where two teens had already been killed. The city refused. In addition, earlier this year, police kicked down the doors of a Panther office, brutally beating and injuring six people and one bystander on Madison Street.
As you can see, the climate of 1969 Chicago was already heated surrounding citizens and the city. Police brutality in Chicago is far from anything new and this year they were on a roll.
John Soto was an active member in the protest campaigns to get a traffic light installed at the corner, a few blocks from Fred’s Apartment. Sadly, John only lived to seventeen, being killed just one day (Oct 5th) after a police raid on a Panther office. According to the reports, John fought with the police before being “accidentally” shot by them. The already agitated community grew furious and John’s brother, Michael Soto, returned home from the army to attend his brother’s funeral. Five days later, on October 10, 1969, Michael Soto too was shot and killed. The black community did not believe in coincidences.
It was said that Michael was killed because, after being stopped by police, he pulled out a gun, contrary to the account given by witnesses.
The community became even more outraged and according to the NAACP’s Commission of Inquiry, “The commission discovered that a substantial segment of the community believed that, contrary to all police reports, John and Michael Soto had been murdered by the police because of their participation in the traffic light protests.”
According to Jeffrey Haas, Panther Lawyer of The People’s Law Office and author of “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther”, (one of the books I’m reading), the coroner’s inquests in the Soto case were delayed; meanwhile the internal police investigation found John’s death to be “accidental homicide” and Michael’s death “justifiable homicide”.
I decided to dedicate this week’s Black History Fun Fact to these brothers because of two things:
- Google’s limited amount of information on them
- Their minimum mention in black history
Though their lives were sadly ended, I wanted to highlight what happened to them for those who may not have been familiar. They existed and are among the many so-called Black and Hispanic men and women who died at the hands of law enforcement.
Update: Interestingly enough, I found this article and thought I’d update this post to include the link:
Chicago police use excessive force, DOJ finds
“Chicago police officers’ use of excessive force, she said, stemmed in large part from what the Justice Department found were severely insufficient training and accountability procedures — including failing to train officers to de-escalate situations.”