News Crime

Head of CeaseFire Illinois charged with domestic battery

Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence group CeaseFire Illinois, was arrested Friday morning on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge at his home in west suburban Hillside.

The arrest clouds the future of Hardiman's leadership at the organization, where he pioneered the role of "violence interrupters," ex-convicts who mediate gang conflicts and prevent gun violence in some of Chicago's most crime-plagued neighborhoods.

Hardiman's arrest also complicates an already shaky existence for CeaseFire. While the group primarily operates through state funding, the city will decide this summer whether it wants to renew a contract with the group to help Chicago police tamp down violent crime in two communities.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, which oversees the group, placed Hardiman on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, said Josh Gryniewicz, a spokesman for the group CureViolence, a CeaseFire partner. In the meantime, former interrupter Jalon Arthur will serve as CeaseFire's director, Gryniewicz said.

In a statement, CeaseFire's founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, discussed the seriousness of the allegations against Hardiman, saying, "As a matter of established policy, CeaseFire and the University of Illinois have zero tolerance for anyone with domestic-related charges, or crimes against women or children, currently or in their background."

Hardiman's wife came to the Hillside police station about 8 a.m. Friday with "signs of injury" and filed a formal complaint against him, according to police Chief Joseph Lukaszek. Hardiman, 50, was taken into custody an hour later.

Lukaszek provided no details about the alleged incident but said it happened late Thursday or early Friday.

Hardiman remained in custody Friday and is scheduled to appear at a bond hearing Saturday, the police chief said.

Efforts to reach Hardiman's wife were unsuccessful.

CeaseFire was started in 2000 by the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention at UIC. Its national profile was elevated in 2011 with the release of the documentary "The Interrupters," which won several awards and featured Hardiman and other CeaseFire workers.

In August, CeaseFire agreed to its first contract with the city, a $1 million grant that was forged as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Garry McCarthy looked for solutions to Chicago's runaway violence. The one-year contract came at a time when the city saw more than 500 homicides for the second time in a decade.

Under the contract, 24 interrupters and outreach workers were hired in two communities hit especially hard by violence: Woodlawn on the South Side and North Lawndale on the West Side. The contract is administered by the city's Department of Public Health, a nod to the group's philosophical underpinning that violence is a public health epidemic. A spokesman said the department was aware of the arrest and was awaiting further details to determine what effect, if any, it has on the city contract.

Cook County court records show that Hardiman has a 1999 conviction for misdemeanor domestic battery, a case in which an emergency order of protection was also issued against him. Details of the case were not available Friday.

Over the years, Chicago police have been wary of CeaseFire. McCarthy has even shown disdain for the group, saying it doesn't want to work with police and dissuades gang members from cooperating with law enforcement.

The anti-violence group agreed to the city contract after police consented not to use CeaseFire workers as informants for criminal investigations. CeaseFire has always maintained it would lose credibility if workers cooperated with authorities.

"Our guys have a job to do. We're getting paid, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel put CeaseFire on a mission over there in them two beats in Woodlawn," Hardiman told the Tribune last week. "And we're fulfilling a mission so far."

Jeremy Gorner is a Tribune reporter; Joseph Ruzich is a freelance reporter.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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