City to pay $500,000 to family of unarmed man shot to death by police while allegedly dealing drugs

SHARE City to pay $500,000 to family of unarmed man shot to death by police while allegedly dealing drugs

Copy photo of Ontario Billups.

Chicago taxpayers will spend $500,000 to compensate the family of an unarmed man shot to death in 2010 while allegedly dealing drugs on the South Side by a police officer who claims the man made an “aggressive movement” toward her.

Five years ago, relatives of 30-year-old Ontario Billups demanded to know why he was killed at around 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday night in December in the 8100 block of South Ashland. They suspected then that the female officer who shot Billups may have fired in haste out of fear after a string of recent murders of Chicago police officers.

Billups, of the 6600 block of South Seeley, was declared dead at the scene, where bloodstains remained in the snow the following morning.

Tactical officers assigned to the Gresham District first spotted Billups in the passenger seat of a car, apparently conducting a drug deal, according to a police statement issued after the shooting.

When officers approached and announced themselves, Billups was inside the car, hiding his hands inside a jacket, the statement said. Billups refused to show his hands despite ”numerous demands” from the officers, it said.

As Billups exited the car, he made an “aggressive movement” and an officer ”in fear of her life” pulled the trigger, the statement said.

Billups — known to pals as ”Long Long” because of his lanky 6-2 frame — had a felony drug conviction for dealing cocaine in 1999 and was sentenced to seven years behind bars after pleading guilty to attempted murder in 2003, records show.

But relatives said he had recently earned his G.E.D., was trying to turn his life around and wouldn’t have threatened a police officer. One of 17 brothers and sisters, he had worked on a garbage truck in Jackson, Miss., but was unemployed at the time of his death, his family said.

”With all the police killings, I think the officer got scared — she must have been a rookie to shoot an unarmed man,” Billups’ sister Trevier Jones-Gaines told the Chicago Sun-Times shortly after her brother’s death.

Then-Police Supt. Jody Weis rejected any suggestion that officers were ”jumpy” or quicker to shoot following the murders of five officers in 2010.

Weis urged people ”not to draw any inference just because a weapon’s not there,” adding that ”officers have to make split-second decisions” and ”oftentimes if you wait for that weapon, you won’t have time to take an action.”

Scott Ando, chief administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, could not be reached on whether IPRA ever recommended disciplinary action against the officer involved in the shooting. Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey had no immediate comment.

The latest in a steady string of costly settlements stemming from alleged police abuse is on the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee.

Word of the settlement came on the same day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel argued that the potentially incendiary video showing a Chicago Police officer firing 16 shots into the body of slain African-American teenager Laquan McDonald should be released “at the appropriate time,” but not right now.

“You have, obviously a [federal] investigation. And you never release a video while that investigation is going on,” the mayor said. “There’s an appropriate way to handle when videos become public and that procedure will be followed.”

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), former chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, has acknowledged that the dashboard camera video of one Chicago Police officer unleashing the barrage of gunfire that killed McDonald, 17, on Oct. 20, 2014 as at least five other responding officers exercised restraint would “really inflame the passions of the community-at-large.”

But, Brookins has said that’s the price that must be paid if the Chicago Police Department is ever going to confront and move beyond the disparate treatment of African-American men by a “handful” of rogue officers that’s become a systemic problem for police across the nation.

Last spring, the City Council authorized a $5 million settlement to McDonald’s family — even before a lawsuit was filed. A civil rights attorney branded the settlement “hush money.”

Monday’s Finance Committee agenda also includes a $200,000 settlement to Maurice Waller. Details of the case were not immediately known. But, the defendants are two police officers and three police detention aides all identified by name and “other unknown police officers and employees.”

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