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Brothers charged in fatal shooting of Chicago police officer denied bail

Emonte Morgan, 21, and his brother, Eric Morgan, 22, face a litany of felony charges in the Saturday shooting in West Englewood that killed French and left her partner fighting for his life at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Droves of Chicago police officers walk out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after a bail hearing Tuesday for Emonte Morgan, charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French and wounding her partner.
Droves of Chicago police officers walk out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse after a bail hearing Tuesday for Emonte Morgan, charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French and wounding her partner.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Even as Chicago Police Officer Ella French lay dying, her body camera continued recording her accused killer standing astride her and holding a handgun, a Cook County judge was told Tuesday.

And Emonte Morgan later told investigators in a videotaped statement that he “thought he might have shot the girl and a boy cop,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said during Morgan’s bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Judge Arthur Willis ordered Morgan, 21, held without bail, saying the evidence suggested he “callously” shot French in the head and critically wounded her partner during a traffic stop Saturday night in West Englewood.

In a separate court hearing Tuesday, Judge Charles Beach ordered Morgan’s brother, 22-year-old Eric Morgan, held without bail for his alleged involvement in the same incident.

Both courtrooms were packed with Chicago police officers. And afterward, dozens of Cook County sheriff’s deputies lined the hallways, many saluting as the Chicago police officers filed out.

Chicago Police Officer Ella French
Chicago Police Officer Ella French
Chicago Police Department

Saturday’s incident unfolded about 9 p.m. in the 2200 block of West 63rd Street when French and two male officers pulled over a gray SUV for having expired license plates, Murphy said.

There were three people in the SUV. Eric Morgan was driving, his brother was in the back passenger seat and an unnamed woman was sitting in the front passenger seat, Murphy said.

French, 29, approached Eric Morgan and asked him to hand her his keys and get out of the car, which he did, Murphy said. The woman passenger also stepped out of the car.

Emonte Morgan, who prosecutors referred to as “Monty” in their written proffer, got out too, but with a drink and cellphone in his hands.

“He refused repeated instructions to set the items down,” Murphy said. “He began physically jerking his arms away from the officers.”

Eric Morgan then fled on foot, pursued by one of French’s fellow officers. French’s other partner then struggled with Emonte Morgan near the car, Murphy said. One of the body cameras “captured a semi-automatic handgun” in Emonte Morgan’s waistband.

Then at some point, Emonte Morgan “fired multiple shots, striking both French and [the other officer],” Murphy said.

The officers fell to the ground. Their cameras kept recording.

“[Emonte] Morgan is seen on the video emerging from the passenger compartment holding a gun in his left hand,” Murphy said. “He is seen looking around while standing above the officers.”

The officer who’d chased Eric Morgan, upon hearing the gunshots, returned to help his fellow officers, Murphy said. Emonte Morgan then fired at the approaching officer, apparently missing him. The officer opened fire and struck Emonte Morgan in the abdomen, prosecutors said. Emonte Morgan also suffered a gunshot wound to his left tricep. Despite being shot, Emonte Morgan was able to pass his handgun to his brother, who was later captured nearby by civilians, Murphy said.

Investigators recovered three .22 caliber spent cartridges near the SUV. Testing confirmed those cartridges came from a handgun found near Eric Morgan, Murphy said.

The brothers both gave videotaped statements, Murphy said.

Emonte Morgan admitted to “possessing a gun in the front of his waistband. He further admitted to pulling out the gun and indicated he that he thought he might have shot the girl and a boy cop,” Murphy said.

In denying bail, Willis said Emonte Morgan had “callously” shot at the officers whose weapons, prosecutors said, were holstered before Emonte Morgan opened fire.

Emonte Morgan, left, and Eric Morgan are charged in the fatal shooting of Chicago Police Officer Ella French.
Emonte Morgan, left, and Eric Morgan
Chicago Police Department photos

Beach noted that Eric Morgan, rather than fleeing the scene after the shootings, took “possession of the very weapon that was allegedly used to kill” French.

“I don’t think electronic monitoring will make the community safe in this particular case,” Beach said. “He’s shown a propensity to flee. He’s shown a propensity to commit crimes in other states.”

The wounded officer, 39, remains in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center with a bullet lodged in his brain and gunshot wounds to his right eye and right shoulder, prosecutors said.

Emonte Morgan, who was taken to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, is charged with first-degree murder of a peace officer, two counts of attempted first-degree murder of a peace officer, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. Eric Morgan is charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and obstruction of justice.

In an emailed statement, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx called French’s death “a tremendous loss.”

“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office stands with the Chicago Police Department and the families of those officers in their time of mourning,” the top prosecutor said. “As to the two offenders who we have now charged, we will prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

FOP President John Catanzara said it was “inexcusable, ridiculous” that Foxx wasn’t present at Tuesday’s bond hearings. He was also upset that no one from the CPD’s top brass was there either.

Foxx was unable to attend the hearings because she was meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray and other “law enforcement partners,” according to Risa Lanier, the interim first assistant at the state’s attorney’s office.

A Chicago police officer wears a blue and black band on her badge as she walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse to attend the Tuesday bond hearings for two brothers charged after the fatal shooting of Chicago Police Officer Ella French.
A Chicago police officer wears a blue and black band on her badge as she walks into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse to attend the Tuesday bond hearings for two brothers charged after the fatal shooting of Chicago Police Officer Ella French.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times