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Father of wounded officer slams mayor on police reform

“She’s tied the hands of the police. She wants ’em to police with one hand behind their back,” said Carlos Yanez Sr., a former Chicago police officer, whose son continues to recover from the West Englewood shooting in which his partner, Officer Ella French, was killed.

Chicago police work the scene where two police officers where shot during a traffic stop in the 6300 block of South Bell in West Englewood on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021.
Chicago police work the scene where two police officers where shot during a traffic stop in the 6300 block of South Bell in West Englewood on Aug. 7.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid the groundwork for the West Englewood traffic stop that resulted in the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French and left her partner fighting for his life with a string of reforms and policy changes that tied the hands of Chicago police officers, the wounded officer’s father said in an interview with the Sun-Times.

Carlos Yanez Sr. said he twice told the mayor’s staff his son was “not a fan of Lori Lightfoot, to put it mildly” and the family did not want her on the floor of the University of Chicago Medical Center where Yanez Jr. was being treated the night of the shooting.

But Lightfoot still made an appearance and got a tongue-lashing in return.

“I said that the actions by her administration and her rhetoric of saying how police need to be reconditioned or retrained or whatever was causing them to be in danger. That it was not allowing the officers to take the instinctive action necessary to protect themselves,” Yanez Sr. said.

“All the officers are told now that, if you draw your weapon and it’s not a situation that warrants it, unless you have guaranteed proof, there’ll be consequences. They didn’t do that when I was on the job. They let us be the police. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t draw my weapon, have it behind my leg or behind my thigh . . . It’s not about race. It’s about survival of the officer. But they don’t have that now. They don’t have that confidence that someone’s gonna back them up.”

Carlos Yanez Jr. (left) with his parents at his swearing-in ceremony on Navy Pier.
Carlos Yanez Jr. (left) with his parents at his swearing-in ceremony on Navy Pier.
Photo courtesy of Carlos Yanez Sr.

The mayor’s office declined to respond to Yanez Sr.’s remarks.

Prosecutors have said French and Carlos Yanez Jr. both had their weapons holstered when Emonte Morgan allegedly opened fire at close range. She died of a single gunshot wound to the head and will be buried Thursday.

Yanez Jr., 39, was struck in the brain, eye and shoulder. The Chicago Sun-Times is identifying him with the consent of the officer and his father.

Yanez Sr. said his son had little choice but to keep his weapon holstered, calling it one of many policy changes emboldening criminals and rendering police sitting ducks.

“When they show up, the bad guys are ready for them. They know they can’t draw their weapons. They know they can’t be chased. You can’t put hands on them without getting sued. Everybody’s got a camera and they’re always challenging them, provoking them. It’s a no-win situation for them,” he said.

“She’s tied the hands of the police. She wants ’em to police with one hand behind their back, and you can’t fight evil crime, brute force, with one hand tied behind their backs.”

Yanez Sr. accused the mayor of “using the race card or the violent police card just to get votes and play both sides of the fence.”

“She shows up to say remorse for the police officer shot. But what have you done to promote police in the eyes of the public and say, ‘We need our police’? [Instead, she says], ‘We’ve got to stop this police violence.’ It’s not police violence. It’s one officer that committed a crime . . . Even doctors make mistakes and they’re sued. But they’re not all washed with the same brush that they’re all bad. You don’t teach the children to fear the police like they do now . . . She’s creating an environment where people are starting to question if the police are good or not,” he said.

“It’s not pro-police or pro-people. It’s about pro-right and wrong, good and evil. But she demonstrates by her actions that she doesn’t really have any consideration for the safety of the officers. They’re expendable. They’re replaceable. Hire new ones. Train ’em differently. But they’re gonna get killed. You can’t change survival tactics that are in place for years to protect the officers as well as the citizens to pacify some voters. It’s not gonna work.”

Yanez Sr. demanded that Lightfoot stop telling Supt. David Brown and his top brass how to run the Chicago Police Department and “let the police be the police.”

“Mayor Lightfoot, you’re not a police officer. ... The law enforcement you did was prosecution. It’s a totally different arena. We catch the lions and the evil monsters for you in a cage. Then you prosecute them,” he said.

“Let the people hunting down evil and catching the monsters — let them do it the way they have to do it to catch ’em, not the way you feel is politically correct.”

Yanez Sr. said he told the mayor to her face that if she doesn’t change course, it will be worse than just the public snub of officers turning their backs to her at the hospital.

“That’s just a physical protest . . . But God forbid their mindset changes and they stop being the police. They stop rushing to help people. Stop overextending above and beyond to be there when they’re called. They’ll just eventually say, ‘I’m gonna go to work, punch in and not risk my life because I’ll get fired,’” he said.

“Someone calls for help, I’ll take it easy. Drive, but make sure I don’t offend anybody by running a red light with the blue lights on or go too fast. God forbid I get in an accident rushing to help somebody and get sued, put in jail or fired. . . . Society has to make a decision. Are they gonna let these [bad] guys run rampant and only get bigger and bolder until they’re at their doorstep in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lake View, the South Side — everywhere? They’re gonna go everywhere because there’s no credible threat to them.”