Relatives of 2 killed by Chicago Police demand changes
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Family members of two people killed by Chicago Police early Saturday asked why officers used deadly force.
Quintonio LeGrier, 19, was killed by police responding to a domestic disturbance, along with downstairs neighbor Bettie Jones, 55, police said.
“Why couldn’t he be in the hospital if something had to happen, rather than in the morgue?” Quintonio LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, said Sunday outside the West Garfield Park home where the shooting occurred.
“What happened to Tasers? Seven times my son was shot,” Cooksey said.
“The police are supposed to serve and protect us and yet they take the lives,” Cooksey said.
“Where do we get our help?” she asked.
Jacqueline Walker, a friend of Jones, asked why police “shoot first and ask questions later.” Police should use stunguns or other nonlethal methods instead, Walker said at the news conference.
Quintonio LeGrier, an engineering student at Northern Illinois University who was home for the holidays, got into an argument with his father, Antonio LeGrier, early Saturday at his father’s home in the 4700 block of West Erie, family friends said Sunday.
Antonio LeGrier told the Chicago Sun-Times he called police to remove his son after Quintonio tried to break down his locked bedroom door while yelling, “You’re not going to scare me.”
He called his downstairs neighbor, Bettie R. Jones. “My son is a little irate. Do not open the door unless the police arrive,” Antonio LeGrier said he told her.
The younger LeGrier was holding a baseball bat when police arrived.
Antonio LeGrier said he heard Jones yell, “Whoa, Whoa, Whoa!” as if she were attempting to intervene in the police confrontation with his son.
“F—, no, no, no. I thought he was lunging at me with the [baseball] bat,” LeGrier said the officer yelled after the shooting that claimed the lives of Jones and the college student.
According to a statement released Saturday by the Chicago Police Department, officers who responded to a 911 call “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon.”
“The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed,” according to the statement, which extended “deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends.”
Autopsy findings released Sunday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office say Jones died from a gunshot to the chest and LeGrier from multiple gunshot wounds.
On Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement that called on the Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority to review the Crisis Intervention Team training on how officers handle calls for service that involve mental health crises.
“There are serious questions about yesterday’s shootings that must be answered in full by the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigation. While their investigation is underway, we must also make real changes within our police department today and it is clear changes are needed to how officers respond to mental health crises.
“This afternoon I directed the new Acting Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority and the Interim Superintendent of Police to meet with each other as soon as possible to review the Crisis Intervention Team training, around how officers respond to mental health crisis calls. I have asked that they determine the deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them.
“The changes we have made in recent weeks are just a beginning — not an end. We will continue to ask tough questions of the police department, of the investigative agencies, and of ourselves, to drive the reforms the people of Chicago deserve and expect.”
On Sunday night, Interim Police Supt. John Escalate said in a statement: “I strongly support the Mayor’s call for a full evaluation of the effectiveness of the current crisis intervention training and de-escalation policies. I am looking forward to bringing my team to the table with IPRA early this week for a critical evaluation of our policies and procedures so we can make any changes needed to ensure we follow the highest professional standards and bring residents the comfort and safety they deserve.”
Bettie Jones' daughter, LaTarsha Jones, at prayer vigil. pic.twitter.com/YRNsy7ePsx
— Mitch Dudek (@mitchdudek) December 27, 2015
Pastors lead rendition of "This Little Light of Mine" pic.twitter.com/WFcLnDyIlv
— Mitch Dudek (@mitchdudek) December 27, 2015
The shootings came amid scrutiny of police after a series of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of officers gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The Chicago Police Department also is under a federal civil rights investigation that will look into patterns of racial disparity in the use of force, how the department disciplines officers and handles misconduct accusations.
The federal civil rights investigation was launched after last month’s release of police dashcam video showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The video’s release has led to protests, the forced resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and calls for Emanuel to step down.
LeGrier’s father said his son had emotional problems. On Sunday, LeGrier’s mother said that was not true and she disputed reports that he had mental health issues.
“He never had combative behavior. My child ran a marathon last year for charity, honor roll student, he’s been having A’s and B’s since he was in grammar school,” Cooksey said.
“I holler at him all the time and he’s never raised his hand up at me,” Cooksey said. “So I know [the boy’s father] could have dealt with that situation, and I wouldn’t be here today. He should have called me.”
Hours earlier, Jones had hosted a Christmas dinner, exchanged gifts with family and played spades, according to friends.
Jones, who had five children and six grandchildren, also worked with the advocacy group Action Now and called for a higher minimum wage, health care and schools, friends said.
A mayoral spokesman said Emanuel, who’s vacationing in Cuba with his family, called Jones’ family on Sunday morning.
Larry Rogers Jr., an attorney for the Jones family, said police need to be held accountable for how they treated Jones’ daughter.
“The insensitivity that was shown by the police after the shooting occurred is of extreme concern for the family. One of the daughters asked one of the police officers, ‘Why did you shoot my mother?’ His response was ‘Your mother’s dead. Get over it,’
” Rogers said Sunday.
“You know what’s insensitive?” said attorney Sam Adam Jr., who also represents the Jones family, gesturing to the presence of Jones’ two daughters, LaToya and LaTarsha Jones. “They could at least send someone to clean up their mother’s blood the day after Christmas.”
“When the doorbell rang, she answered the doorbell and shortly after that she was shot to death,” Adam said.
Adam said police took the hard drive of a home-security camera from across the street, but it was unknown if it or other cameras in the neighborhood captured the shootings.
Larry Merritt, a spokesman for the Independent Police Review Authority, said he did not know whether video of the incident — from a police dashcam or nearby security cameras — existed.
Citing protocol, Merritt said he was unable to reveal the identities of the officers involved or how long they had been on the job.
A slew of politicians and clergy showed up the site of the shooting Sunday after to attend a prayer vigil and to call for police reform. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S Rep. Danny Davis and Ald. Jason Ervin 28th attended the vigil.
They led the crowd in a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press