Chicago police department comes under intense scrutiny following officer-involved shooting
CHICAGO – The fatal shootings of a woman who worked with anti-violence community groups and a young man visiting his father for the holidays has raised further questions about the Chicago police department, already under intense scrutiny after the killing of black teenager.
Grieving relatives and friends of the two victims, 55-year-old Bettie Jones and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, gathered Sunday to remember them and criticize city officials who they said had once again failed residents.
Both Jones and LeGrief were black, and their deaths come amid a federal civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department, launched after the release of police dashcam video showing a white officer shooting a black 17-year-old 16 times in 2014.
A series of such shootings across the country has given rise to the Black Lives Matter protest movement.
The latest shooting happened early Saturday morning at a small two-story home, where Jones lived in a ground-floor apartment and LeGrier’s father in an upstairs unit. Police, who were responding to an emergency call made by LeGrier’s father after an argument with his son, have released few details beyond a brief statement.
It said that officers “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon” and added that Jones “was accidentally struck.”
Police did not disclose the race of the officer or officers, saying only that those involved will be placed on administrative duties.
“I used to watch the news daily and I would grieve for other mothers, other family members, and now today I’m grieving myself,” LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey said at a news conference outside the residence earlier Sunday.
Others who spoke said police should have used stun guns or other nonlethal methods if they felt they needed to subdue LeGrier.
“Why do (police) have to shoot first and ask questions later?” Jacqueline Walker, a friend of Jones, asked. “It’s ridiculous.”
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.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi on Sunday said only that the shootings are being investigated by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, the main police oversight agency.
LeGrier’s cousin, Albert Person, said LeGrier’s father had invited his son to a holiday gathering at another home on Christmas. Person said the son’s refusal to go caused friction, but he downplayed the severity of the argument.
“What family doesn’t fight on the holidays?” he said.
LeGrier’s father, Antonio LeGrier, told the Chicago Sun-Times his son appeared to be a “little agitated” when the father returned to the apartment. Around 4:15 a.m., the elder LeGrier said he heard loud banging on his locked bedroom door and that his son said, “You’re not going to scare me.” He said his son tried to break the door open, but he kept him from doing so and called police. He added that he called Jones on the floor below to say his son was a “little irate” and not to open the door unless police arrived.
He said Jones told him his son was outside with a baseball bat. Person said the teen was back in the house by the time police arrived.
When they did arrive, Antonio LeGrier said he heard Jones yell, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” He said he heard gunshots as he made his way down from the second floor and then saw his son and Jones lying in the foyer.
He said his son had emotional problems after spending most of his childhood in foster care. He described him as a “whiz kid” on break from Northern Illinois University, where he majored in electrical engineering technology.
Cooksey denied that her son ever exhibited “combative behaviour.” She said he “might’ve been angry with his father and they might’ve got into it,” but that he was not angry or violent.
It’s not clear whether Jones tried to intervene before being shot or if she was hit by gunfire while answering the door.
Jones was known in her neighbourhood for her work with anti-violence groups. Family spokesman Eric Russell said Jones’ many grandchildren had hoped to thank her for their Christmas gifts over the weekend.
© 2015 The Associated Press