‘Fierce, humble and so loving’ — Chicago police remember Ella French in letters urging max sentence for man who bought gun

Jamel Danzy, the so-called straw purchaser of the gun used to kill French, is set to be sentenced Wednesday.

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An officer wore this button in honor of slain Officer Ella French during French’s funeral on Aug. 19, 2021 in St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel.

An officer wore this button in honor of slain Officer Ella French during French’s funeral on Aug. 19, 2021, in St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel.

Ashlee Rezin / Sun-Times file

The Chicago Police Department has delivered 80 pages of letters to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman seeking the maximum sentence — five years — for the so-called straw purchaser of the gun that was used last year to kill Officer Ella French and seriously wound her partner.

Federal prosecutors also recently asked Gettleman to give Jamel Danzy five years after he pleaded guilty this summer to a conspiracy to commit federal firearm offenses. He is set to be sentenced Wednesday.

The letters filed in court Friday were written by Chicago police officers and their supporters. Officer Naomi Ezquivel wrote that French “was outgoing, funny, and always made the newer officers feel welcome.”

“She was highly motivated and driven, always on the lookout for criminal activity. … She had a whole lifetime ahead of her to continue making a difference in Chicago’s most needy communities,” Ezquivel wrote.

Another letter writer, identified only as “Officer Hernandez,” wrote that French “had the biggest personality that no one could ignore. Ella was fierce, humble and so loving to anyone and everyone that was graced by her presence.”

Cmdr. Melinda Linas wrote that Danzy “did not literally pull the trigger, but his actions made it possible for the trigger to be pulled.” And Cmdr. Bryan Spreyne wrote that the fatal shooting of French and the wounding of her partner, Carlos Yanez, “are a painful loss to their families, friends and fellow law enforcement, not to mention the communities that they can no longer serve.”

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara sought the letters in a video posted to Facebook about two weeks ago. He wrote in his own letter that the judge has “the ability to send [as] strong a signal as possible currently.”

Another letter, from CPD Executive Director Tina Skahill, also references a request from Supt. David Brown that Danzy be given the maximum sentence. Brown’s letter was not immediately available Friday.

James Vanzant, one of Danzy’s defense attorneys, declined to comment. But in a court filing Friday night, he wrote that “there is no evidence in the record that Mr. Danzy was actually aware that the firearm he bought … would be used by a third party to kill anyone, much less a police officer.”

_FrenchGun.jpeg

The gun allegedly used to kill Officer Ella French.

U.S. District Court records

French and Yanez were shot after they and Officer Joshua Blas stopped a Honda CR-V driven by Eric Morgan on Aug. 7, 2021, around 63rd Street and Bell Avenue. Morgan’s brother, Emonte, was also in the car, as was a gun purchased by Danzy, according to prosecutors.

During the stop, Emonte Morgan opened fire with that gun, killing French and shooting Yanez in the head multiple times, according to the feds. Eric Morgan then allegedly fled with the .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol and still had it when he was arrested later.

A litany of felonies has been filed in state court against the Morgans, including murder charges against Emonte Morgan. The brothers have pleaded not guilty. 

When Danzy pleaded guilty, he admitted Eric Morgan had asked him to buy a gun in March 2021. He agreed to do so, even though he knew Eric Morgan was a convicted felon. 

Danzy bought the pistol, a Glock Model 44, from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Hammond, Indiana. He also filled out a form falsely certifying that he was buying the gun for himself.

But Danzy knew Eric Morgan took the gun back and forth between Danzy’s home in Hammond and Chicago. He last saw the gun under his bed a few days before French’s death, prosecutors said.

Danzy also admitted in July that he purchased another semi-automatic pistol for his cousin, who was also a convicted felon. 

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