Three days after a Chicago police officer shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones, investigators returned to the West Side building where the shots rang out to collect evidence that police apparently didn’t gather immediately after the incident, according to attorneys representing the victims’ families.
Two investigators from the Independent Police Review Authority — the city agency charged with examining police shootings — and eight Chicago police officers returned to the scene at 3 p.m. Tuesday and stayed there for about an hour, said attorney Basileios “Bill” Foutris, who is representing LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier.
An IPRA investigator had asked permission to enter the property from Antonio LeGrier, who referred the official to Foutris. IPRA told Foutris that investigators needed to gather more evidence that would help “determine the trajectory of the fired bullets, which in turn would have helped to determine where the police officer was when he was shooting,” Foutris said.
That evidence, Foutris charged, should have been collected sooner, leading him to believe that “the CPD forensic investigators were deciding what evidence not to preserve” immediately after the shooting.
Also, between Saturday and Tuesday, news reporters, family members and other people entered the property in the 4700 block of West Erie, potentially compromising the crime scene, Foutris said.
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Larry Rogers Jr., an attorney for Jones’ family, said he also heard that the investigators had returned. “It clearly raises a question about how thoroughly the initial collection of evidence was done,” Rogers said.
Police department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi declined to comment, referring questions to IPRA.
Under city law, the police department investigates shootings involving officers and then share its findings with IPRA, a separate city department responsible for determining whether the shootings are justified. IPRA investigators can also seek their own evidence and interview witnesses, including the officers involved.
Larry Merritt, a spokesman for IPRA, said he can’t comment on the investigation into the shootings because it’s open.
However, Merritt did say, “It’s not unusual for IPRA to go back out to a scene.”
“They might go back once or conceivably twice,” said Lorenzo Davis, a former IPRA investigator. But, in his view, “They’re doing it now because a lot of political pressure has been exerted on the mayor.”
Davis, a former Chicago police commander, worked for the agency for seven years before being fired in July after a dispute with supervisors. Davis concluded that several police shootings he helped investigate should be ruled unjustified but he was overruled.
He said he recalls a couple of cases in which he and other IPRA investigators tried to determine where shots were fired and where the bullets ended up after police detectives failed to do so.
Critics have charged IPRA with relying too heavily on information that police collect on their colleagues.
Under police department rules, IPRA is not allowed to interview officers who discharged their weapons until 24 to 47 hours after such incidents — and then only with a lawyer present.
The incident on West Erie happened about 4:30 a.m. Saturday, after officers responded to 911 calls of a dispute involving a man wielding a baseball bat. Jones, who lived on the first floor, opened the door when the police arrived, according to lawyers for her family.
Police officials said the officers “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharge of the officer’s weapon.” They have not said where LeGrier was or exactly what he was doing, but said Jones “was accidentally struck.” Her attorneys said Wednesday she was hit in “a hail of bullets” and that shell casings from the cop’s gun were found on the sidewalk, suggesting he had fired from 20 or more feet away.
Contributing: Andy Grimm