Family of man fatally shot by Chicago cop in Garfield Park calls for officer’s arrest, justice

Reginald Clay Jr., 24, ran from officers who approached him and a group of people April 15 in the 3800 block of West Flournoy Street, officials said. Body-cam footage shows Clay turning toward officers holding a handgun.

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Reginald Clay Jr. was shot and killed April 15 by a Chicago police officer in the 3800 block of West Flournoy Street.

Civilian Office of Police Accountability

A man who was shot and killed during a foot chase with Chicago police last month was holding a gun as he turned toward an officer, according to body-worn camera footage released Wednesday.

Reginald Clay Jr., 24, ran from officers who approached him and a group of people in the 3800 block of West Flournoy Street about 10 a.m. on April 15, according to statements released by the police department and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Body-camera footage released by COPA shows Clay walking away as two officers pulled up. Clay flees through a gangway into a backyard and then into another gangway that was blocked off.

Clay is seen turning toward the officers with a gun in his right hand before he shifts the weapon to his left hand and apparently tries to put it down on a back porch. An officer opens fire as Clay appears to scream and grab for his chest.

As Clay falls to the ground and a large bloodstain appears on his chest, he raises his bloodied hands in an apparent attempt to surrender and then collapses, the video shows. Audio of the shooting wasn’t captured by either of the officers’ body cameras.

The chase lasted about 15 seconds.

An officer then makes a distress call over his police radio.

“Get an ambulance over here!” the officer cries out after shouting a series of expletives.

A police report shows Clay was shot five times — once in his chest, sternum and armpit and twice in his arm.

Shortly after the shooting, the officer who fired the shots admonishes his partner for picking up Clay’s gun. The officers then turn over Clay’s body in an apparent attempt to render aid.

Two people walk into the backyard where the shooting happened, one of them shrieking in terror and bumping an officer to apparently get closer to Clay. The other person walks around an officer and steps onto the porch overlooking Clay’s body.

As a distraught person walks into the alley, other bystanders question the officer’s actions.

“Why y’all just kill my brother, bro?” one person asks. “We’re going to a funeral right now for our other brother. ... You lucky you got that badge on, b----.”

Meanwhile, officers are heard pleading for assistance. Sirens are eventually heard approaching, and a large contingent of officers arrives at the scene through the alley.

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Reginald Clay Jr.’s family has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Chicago police officer of using “unprovoked and unwarranted” force and violating the department’s foot-chase policy.

Facebook photo

Both the police department and COPA initially reported that Clay was shot when he turned toward the officers. And both said a gun was found on him.

But neither the police department nor COPA initially described Clay holding the gun when he was shot, though Chicago Police Deputy Chief Rahman Muhammad told reporters on the scene that Clay turned toward the officer and “brandished a handgun.”

Clay’s family viewed video of the shooting Tuesday and told reporters they didn’t see him aim a gun at the police. Clay’s father, Reginald Clay Sr., claimed his son was “murdered,” according to Block Club Chicago.

“That’s hard to watch,” Clay Sr. said. “My heart was ripped out of my chest.”

The family filed a federal lawsuit days after the shooting, accusing a Chicago officer of using “unprovoked and unwarranted” force and violating the department’s foot-chase policy.

Muhammad said the officers who approached Clay’s group were on a “gang deescalation mission” after a recent fatal shooting, though it’s unclear why exactly the officers targeted them. Both officers were placed on routine administrative duties for 30 days, the police department previously said.

Clay, father of a 3-year-old daughter, had planned to head to a friend’s funeral and took off “to avoid being hassled” by the officers, according to his family’s lawsuit. “There were no facts to make anyone believe that (he) was committing a crime or breaking any laws,” the suit states.

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Reginald Clay Jr.’s mother, Tara Henderson (left), and Chris Dickson, Clay’s cousin, join dozens of family, friends and community activists at a protest outside Chicago Police Department headquarters. Dickson wore a white shirt smeared with fake blood.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

On Wednesday evening, Clay’s friends and family joined activists outside Chicago Police Department headquarters to protest the shooting. They demanded the officer who fired the fatal shots be fired and arrested, saying that Clay — who they also called “Lil Red” — was surrendering when he was killed. 

“My baby put that gun down, and he surrendered,” said Tara Henderson, Clay’s mother. “He wasn’t pointing it at nobody. He was taking it and laying it down, and they shot him.” 

Clay’s family said he had a valid firearms owner identification card. Someone in the crowd held a large sign with a blown-up photograph of the front of the license. The family said Clay didn’t have a concealed-carry license. 

Henderson said officers shouldn’t have chased her son, who was minding his own business when officers showed up.

“He was fearing for his life,” she said. 

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Chris Dickson, cousin of Reginald Clay Jr., holds the shoes Clay was wearing when he was shot. “We don’t want shoes. ... We want the officer locked up. We want justice to be served,” he said.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Chris Dickson, Clay’s cousin, said Clay panicked when he saw police, and that’s why he ran from them. He said Clay wasn’t doing anything wrong, but he was scared of police after seeing recent national news coverage of the deaths of Black men at the hands of police.

“You see every time on TV where the police is killing us. So he was afraid,” Clay Sr. said. 

“He was Black, standing by himself,” Dickson said when asked why he thought the officers stopped to question Clay. “I could stand here today and see the police and run. What would they do? Pursue a foot chase. If I don’t give up what would they do? Shoot me.” 

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“My son was 24 years old. He wanted to live, he had aspirations,” said Reginald Clay Sr., father of Reginald Clay Jr., outside Chicago Police Department headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Dickson wore a white shirt smeared in fake blood as he spoke to reporters. From a plastic bag he pulled out the pair of tan and brown sneakers that Clay was wearing when he was shot and held them up for the cameras. 

“This is all they gave us for my little cousin getting killed. And some earrings,” Dickson said. “He was a whole person, a whole human being. We want justice, we don’t want shoes. We don’t want earrings. We want the officer locked up. We want justice to be served.” 

The group of about two dozen marched to 35th and Michigan Avenue and held up traffic for several minutes. They chanted “no justice, no peace,” “justice for Lil Red, her son should not be dead” and “Whose streets? Our streets.” 

“My son was 24 years old. He wanted to live, he had aspirations. He would give you the shirt off his back,” Clay Sr. said. “He loved family. They robbed that from him, they robbed that from his daughter, they robbed that from the whole entire family.”

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Protesters briefly blocked traffic at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue Wednesday evening.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

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