Quintonio LeGrier’s short life was full of ups and downs.
There were good grades despite a rough upbringing. And great friendships amid emotional problems, mourners said at his funeral on Saturday.
LeGrier’s homegoing service became a rallying cry for unification against police misconduct, as young activists and ministers spoke of the need for basic decency when it comes to responding to pockets of struggling communities.
“With a measure of human consideration, Quintonio would be alive today,” Pastor Marshall Hatch told mourners at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church–the same church where mourners on Wednesday said goodbye to 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a mother of five killed while opening the door to police.
The great hopes of success for a West Side kid raised in the foster care system dissipated on Dec. 26 when 19-year-old LeGrier was shot to death by a police officer responding to a domestic dispute between LeGrier and his father. Jones, LeGrier’s neighbor, was also accidentally killed in those early morning hours, police said.
In a statement, police said officers were confronted by a combative subject, which resulted in the officer discharging his weapon, killing two people.
There was no “margin of error,” for LeGrier, as is the case for many young black men in struggling communities, Hatch said, recalling a night he was given a second chance by police after a night of revelry during a college break.
“The tragedy is compounded today because when there were alternative outcomes, an officer of peace shot first and asked questions later and left no room for grace. A family’s call for help ended with a hail of bullets and left no room for grace….When a college student home from break and in need of help and consideration gets shot seven times by peace officers, there’s no room for grace,” Hatch said.
LeGrier was raised by Mary Strenger, his foster mother since age 5. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took custody of LeGrier amid substantiated charges of abuse lodged against his mother.
Strenger, whom LeGrier called “Grandma,” cried in the first row of the church. One by one, Strenger’s foster children and family spoke of the love the two shared.
Strenger’s own words were read to the church by Black Lives Matter activists: “Quin, I can’t begin to tell you how much my heart hurts for you. I truly loved you. And I know you loved me, son. Your life was cut short, but your spirit will truly live on.”
The foster mother of Quintonio LeGrier, Mary Strenger, second from left, mourns during LeGrier’s funeral at New Mount Pilgrim Church on Jan. 9, 2016. Lou Foglia/ for The Sun-Times
LeGrier’s father, who witnessed his son’s death, spoke about the memories he’ll always cherish.
“From his first step to his last breath, I was there, and no one can take it from me,” Antonio LeGrier said.
Quintonio LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, held up a card her young son once wrote to her for her birthday.
“They don’t come no better than him. They don’t come no better,” she said.
Quintonio LeGrier’s former classmates and teachers at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep came out in force. Brooks Principal De’Andre Weaver announced that a fund — $15,000 raised in just eight days — will be used to pay for all funeral costs. The school has also renamed an award for students who have overcome obstacles after the 2004 graduate, who was known as a “math whiz” at the school.
Friends and family grieve as a hearse carrying the body of Quintonio LeGrier, who was shot by police late last year, arrives at New Mount Pilgrim Church on Jan. 9, 2016. Lou Foglia/ for The Sun-Times
Lamon Reccord, the teen activist whose face has become very familiar at police shooting protests, urged mourners to keep fighting for victims of police-involved shootings.
“The fight is not over,” Reccord, 16, said. “…The police didn’t do this, the system did. And I guarantee you if this movement wasn’t going on, it would have gotten swept under the rug. It would have been a cover-up.”
Reccord urged everyone to stop pointing fingers: “We are in this together.”
Activist Ja’Mal Green, 20, said the younger LeGrier, Laquan McDonald and Jones are victims of the system.
“This fight is just beginning. It’s just the beginning. So you rest, you rest in the name of God. And until I’m here, while I’m here in Chicago, I’m going to continue to fight this system so I can save more 19-year-olds,” Green said. “This is just the beginning. Let’s unify.”
Jones’ family sent a spokesman to offer condolences and echo their words: “We must unify against these police,” Eric Russell said to applause.
He called issues with police in the city “the elephant in the room.”
“The Jones family will be forever connected to the LeGrier family. Now we must become long distance runners. He has passed the baton to us, so we must be long distance runners as we seek justice.”