‘Anger and grief basically lead to vengeance’: Straw purchaser of gun used to kill Officer Ella French gets 2.5 years
Jamel Danzy of Indiana is the only person convicted so far in connection with the Chicago police officer’s death.
The partner of murdered Chicago Police Officer Ella French and top police brass blasted a 2½-year prison sentence handed down Wednesday to the straw purchaser of the gun used to kill her — a ruling that followed heartbreaking comments from French’s mother.
Elizabeth French gripped a tissue in her right hand as she stood before the judge at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. She described her daughter’s life in vivid detail, from the moment Ella French smiled at her as an 8-month-old foster child to their final chat, when she told her 29-year-old daughter to “be careful, to be safe” and that she loved her.
“I want to hug my full-of-life baby girl again,” she told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, trembling as she sought a maximum five-year sentence for Jamel Danzy, 30, of Indiana.
Eventually, the mother turned to face Danzy, who looked toward her over a blue face mask. She told him, “Your choices took my daughter from me forever.” And she asked, “What gives you the right to think you deserve anything less than the full penalty allowed by law?”
Finally, Elizabeth French held hands with her daughter’s partners, Officers Carlos Yanez Jr. and Joshua Blas, as Gettleman handed down the sentence. She appeared to cry behind her own face mask as it became clear the judge would not go along with her request for a maximum sentence, which was also sought by Yanez and others.
Gettleman told the courtroom, “I feel the grief, and I feel the anger.”
But, he said, “Anger and grief basically lead to vengeance.”
Danzy is the only person convicted so far in connection with the shooting that killed French, seriously wounded Yanez and also endangered Blas. The alleged shooter, Emonte Morgan, and his brother, Eric Morgan, face several felony charges in state court and have pleaded not guilty.
Danzy bought the gun used in that shooting for Eric Morgan. He did so even though he knew Eric Morgan was a convicted felon. Danzy also falsely certified on a form that he was buying the gun for himself. The practice is known as straw purchasing.
Yanez told the judge that Danzy “threw the brick in the calm pond” and “may as well have pulled the trigger.”
But Gettleman said the line between Danzy and the shooting was “crooked” because he bought the gun for Eric Morgan, not Emonte Morgan. He said the maximum sentence should be reserved for the “worst of the worst.”
But the judge also said the need to send a message to the public about straw purchasing called for a sentence that rose above federal sentencing guidelines.
Danzy would have gotten a sentence of up to 16 months under those guidelines. Gettleman sentenced Danzy to nearly twice that.
Police Supt. David Brown tweeted after the hearing that he was “deeply disappointed” in the sentence.
Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott told reporters, “We had an opportunity here today to send a strong message to those criminals who violate our gun laws. I believe we missed that opportunity.”
John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union, said, “I think Judge Gettleman dropped the ball.”
Yanez said: “It just so sickens me that, you know, the sentence was only 30 months.” And Yanez’s father, Carlos Yanez Sr., asked, “What does it take to get a maximum sentence?”
Under the law at the time of Danzy’s gun purchase, Gettleman could give him no more than five years. However, a law has since been passed to increase the maximum sentence in such cases to 15 years, according to Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Lausch.
Danzy’s attorneys, Holly Blaine and James Vanzant, explained that Danzy had been in a three-year relationship with Eric Morgan, who apparently used Danzy for money. When Danzy didn’t do as Eric Morgan asked, Blaine said Eric Morgan would “ice him out.”
“[Danzy] was trying to save this relationship,” Blaine said.
That’s why Danzy, at Eric Morgan’s request in March 2021, purchased a Glock Model 44 from a federally licensed firearms dealer in Hammond, Indiana, and lied on the form. Assistant U.S. Attorney Prashant Kolluri said Danzy also bought ammunition for the gun.
When it was his turn to speak, Danzy told the judge he took full responsibility for his actions. However, he also noted that he’d been embarrassed by his arrest in front of his co-workers after French’s murder. He said he has worked with autistic children and has a “good heart.”
“I hope that everyone can see that I’m a great person inside and out,” Danzy said.