After police officers shot and killed two Chicago residents — one admittedly accidentally — early Saturday morning, their friends and families are asking why officers “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, both black, were killed as police responded to a domestic disturbance call, which neighbors and family said began when LeGrier threatened his father with a baseball bat. LeGrier was a sophomore honor student at Northern Illinois University, studying engineering, who was home for the holidays.
“Bettie was a loving person that loved music and loved church. The night of Christmas everybody was playing spades, drinking, having fun, celebrating Christmas like many Chicago families,” Jahmal Cole, Jones’ nephew, said Sunday. “She should not have to come outside, open the door and be shot down by a police officer.”
LeGrier’s father, Antonio, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he returned home late after a family gathering that his son had decided not to attend, and found the younger LeGrier “a little agitated.” Around 4:15 a.m., Antonio said, his son began banging on his locked bedroom door, trying to break it down, saying “you’re not going to scare me.”
That’s when Antonio called the police, then called Jones, the downstairs neighbor, to warn her that LeGrier was “a little irate” and not to open the door except for police. It is still unclear exactly what happened next, but Antonio said after police arrived he heard Jones saying “whoa, whoa, whoa!” He heard gunshots as he came down the stairs, then he reached the foyer to find his son and Jones lying on the ground.
A statement from the Chicago Police Department released Saturday said officer responded to a 911 call and “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon.” The statement goes on to admit that Jones “was accidentally struck and tragically killed”. The Chicago Police Department has not revealed how many officers were at the scene, how many shots were fired, or how many officers opened fire.
Family and friends of the victims gathered in front of the home Sunday afternoon to express their outrage. Jones’ childhood friend Jacqueline Walker had questions for the police.
“Police shoot without asking. Why you got to shoot first and ask questions later? It’s ridiculous,” she said. “What about the Taser? Taser him down, don’t start shooting people, innocent people.”
Most attendees at Sunday’s vigil wore shirts bearing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s face and the phrase “Rahm Failed Us.”
In response to the shooting, Mayor Emanuel called Sunday for a complete review of the crisis training police receive, especially in regards to mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness partners with the Chicago Police Department to train officers on crisis response and mental health. The group says only 16 percent, or 1,800 of about 11,000 Chicago police officers, are trained in crisis intervention.
Saturday’s shooting came just days after mass protests in Chicago over the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald by officer James Van Dyke, who is now charged with first degree murder. After video evidence contradicting the police’s account of the incident emerged weeks ago, the city’s ire has focused on Mayor Emanuel, with some calling for his resignation, and one state representative introducing a bill to recall him. Mayor Emanuel also may have known about the video during his reelection campaign.
Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy earlier this month over the handling of the McDonald case, and the Federal Justice Department is now investigating the Chicago Police Department over the shooting as well. In a policy adopted by Chicago in response to protests, police involved in Saturday’s shooting will be moved to administrative work for 30 days while the shooting is investigated.
Protests over McDonald’s death are tied to the larger Black Lives Matter movement, which has pushed the frequency of police killings of black Americans and governmental indifference to those deaths to the forefront of American politics, starting with the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
Another man was wounded in a shooting with Chicago police less than 24 hours after Saturday’s shooting, as police were responding to an assault in progress. Few details have been released, but police are investigating an officer in relation to the shooting, and family members have identified the victim as 23-year-old Mekel Lumpkin, now hospitalized.