Joseph Gould,

Chicago, Illinois
July 30, 1995

Agencies: Chicago Police Department Illinois

Cause of death: Shooting

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Last updated: over 5 years ago


In life, Joseph Gould was one of America's forgotten: a homeless black man who scratched out an existence on the streets of this city washing the windshields of cars stopped at red lights.

But in death, Mr. Gould has become the subject of radio talk shows, a City Council hearing and protest marches as another bloody symbol in the national debate about justice, race, class and the police.

The Chicago Tribune stepped into the growing storm today and admitted in an editorial, "It's hard to argue with those folks who suspect a miscarriage of justice is taking place."

In the early morning hours of July 30, Mr. Gould was shot and killed in a sidewalk dispute with an off-duty white police officer, Gregory Becker, in River North, a neighborhood of trendy restaurants and nightclubs near Chicago's Loop business district.

The officer, who is married, was out on the town with a female companion when he and Mr. Gould argued after Mr. Gould apparently approached the couple asking for money or a chance to clean their windshield. The officer was in plainclothes and was unarmed at first, but opened the trunk of his car to retrieve his pistol, the authorities have said.

At some point, the men struggled. There was a gunshot and Mr. Gould, 36, slumped to the ground. Then, Officer Becker and his companion got into their car and drove off as Mr. Gould lay dying.

Officer Becker, 34, did not report the shooting and was tracked down only after witnesses reported his plate number to the police. The officer's companion said they had not realized that Mr. Gould had been shot.