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Mourners remember mother of five 'accidentally' shot by police

Latasha Jones kisses her mother, Bettie Jones, who was “accidentally” shot to death by a Chicago Police officer the day after Christmas, during her funeral at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Latasha Jones kisses her mother, Bettie Jones, who was “accidentally” shot to death by a Chicago Police officer the day after Christmas, during her funeral at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

Beneath the church’s vaulted ceilings, the pastor’s voice thundered, echoing the outrage of many who’d gathered to say goodbye to a “good neighbor.”

“We have a right to expect the police to serve and protect!” said Pastor Marshall Hatch, standing in the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church pulpit Wednesday. “Our communities are not hoods, but they are neighborhoods with people who work in bakeries, raise their families and respond to their neighbors as neighbors. . . . ”

A few feet away in a crimson casket lay the body of Bettie Ruth Jones, the “selfless” mother of five and bakery worker hundreds had come to remember.

Chicago Police shot and killed Jones — “accidentally,” they’ve said — while responding to a domestic violence call in the early morning hours of Dec. 26 in the same West Side building where Jones lived. Jones’ death, many in the African-American community say, is yet further proof of the police department’s lack of concern for black lives.

Rev. Dr. Marshall Elijah Hatch Sr. spoke during the funeral services for Bettie Jones, who was “accidentally” shot to death by a Chicago Police officer the day after Christmas, at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Rev. Dr. Marshall Elijah Hatch Sr. spoke during the funeral services for Bettie Jones, who was “accidentally” shot to death by a Chicago Police officer the day after Christmas, at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.
Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

“Bettie is innocent,” Hatch told the gathering, many of whom loudly applauded his words. “She did not deserve this. She was merely trying to help a neighbor and the police. . . . There was nothing she did that should have been done differently.”

Police say they shot a “combative” Quintonio LeGrier, 19, also accidentally and “tragically” hitting Jones, whose family has since filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

Before Wednesday’s service, dozens lined up to say goodbye to Jones as she lay in the open casket, her face bathed in a soft red light. Her twin grown daughters, LaTonya and LaTisha, made several trips back to the casket — seemingly unable to say a last goodbye. And as the lid was closed, LaTonya cried out, “Mommie! Mommie!” before being gently led away.

To the rumbling accompaniment of an organ and a swaying gospel choir, friends and family ​gathered at the church at 4301 W. Washington ​remembered Jones as a devoted Christian who went to church weekly, liked playing the card game “spades” and was a loving mother.

“My mother was a proud mother of all of her kids,” LaTonya Jones said. “She always told us she had our backs no matter what. . . . My mama raised me right. She made sure I went to school.”

And then, like so many speakers Wednesday, LaTonya’s sorrow erupted into anger as she reflected on the circumstances of her mother’s death.

“Her life got taken away for helping the city!” LaTonya said. “She didn’t have nothing to do with nothing. . . . This needs to stop — all these police killing all these innocent people for nothing.”

Several leaped to their feet and applauded in an audience that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, other religious leaders and a number of local politicians, including Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.

Later, as the church music softened to a murmur, Jones’ casket was carried out of the church and eased into a white hearse. Church leaders said prayers on the church steps, only to be drowned out by the voices of a group holding a banner that read: “Black Panther Party Cubs.”

“Long live Bettie Jones! They shouted.

Then, “Who’s the biggest gang in Chicago?”

The reply: “CPD!”