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On Monday afternoon, Deborah Thomas, who lives at 906 W. Vine St., received a phone call from the City of Champaign. The woman on the phone identified herself as “Susan” from the City Attorney’s office. They wanted to visit her house the following day on March 2 at 3:30 p.m. with Police Chief R.T. Finney. It was at Deborah’s home that Kiwane Carrington was fatally shot after Chief Finney and officer Daniel Norbits arrived there on October 9, 2009. Running between classes at Parkland, Deborah did not get the chance to ask why they wanted to visit, but told them they could come by.
Soon after, Deborah called me to say that Finney would be visiting and asked for someone else to be there. I called Melodye Rosales and the two of us went to her home shortly before 3:30 p.m.
Chief Finney and the two attorneys came in an unmarked black SUV with tinted windows. They drove up and down Vine St. twice before parking at the Icehouse bar around the corner. They walked around a fence and behind a house to get to 906 W. Vine St.
A woman knocked at the door. Deborah walked out to greet them. The woman who appears on the YouTube video says she is “Susan, from the City of Champaign, the person who called you.” (It is assumed that this was Susan Wozniak, a paralegal for the city, but it could not be confirmed.) Then another unidentified person, a white haired man wearing a black bomber jacket, introduced himself. “I wanted to let you know we’re here,” Susan says.
Melodye Rosales came out behind Deborah with a video camera and I followed them. Obviously surprised, Chief Finney quickly turned around and headed back to the car. In the video, he can be seen wearing a black jacket with a patch on his upper right arm. Susan points to the backyard, but as she sees Finney walking off, she turns to leave. “Thank you very much,” she says. “Thanks,” the unidentified man says and waves. They did not stick around to investigate the property. Apparently, this was not a routine visit.
A FOIA was filed with the City of Champaign to find out who Susan and the unidentified man were, whose car they arrived in, and why they were there. I received a letter from Deputy Chief Holly Nearing that stated, “There is no public record of this occurrence.” I called Nearing for further clarification and she said, “I have responded to you within the restraints of the FOIA legislation.”
What does the City of Champaign have to hide about why Finney and friends were visiting the home of Deborah Thomas?