Saturday, December 26, 2015

Father After Two Shot Dead by Cops: 'I Don't Feel That His Life Was Worth Losing Because He Got Upset'
 Police fatally shoot 2 while answering domestic call on West Side

Chicago police fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, as officers responded to a domestic disturbance at a West Garfield Park apartment building early on Dec. 26, 2015, authorities said

Megan Crepeau, Deanese Williams-Harris, Jeremy Gorner, Genevieve Bookwalter and Grace
Chicago Tribune

Two families on the West Side were demanding answers Saturday after officers responding to a call about a domestic disturbance shot and killed a 19-year-old engineering student and a 55-year-old mother of five.

Police were offering few details of the early-morning shooting, the first use of lethal force by Chicago police since last month's release of a video of Laquan McDonald's death put a national spotlight on the city.

The department issued a brief statement saying officers responded to a home in West Garfield Park around 4:30 a.m. A dispatcher told the officers that a "male caller said someone is threatening his life. It's also coming in as a domestic. The 19-year-old son is banging on his bedroom door with a baseball bat."

The officers were "confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon, fatally wounding two individuals."

Relatives said the 19-year-old, Quintonio LeGrier, was an honors student who had been struggling with mental health issues recently.

The woman who was killed, Bettie Jones, was a downstairs neighbor and had been asked by the father to keep an eye out for the arrival of the police, according to both families.

Neither the police statement nor the source provided any account of how both LeGrier and Jones came to be wounded by one of the officers in front of the frame two-flat in the 4700 block of West Erie Street.

Police audio from about 4:26 to 4:41 a.m. Dec. 26, 2015, covers the dispatch of units and eventual call of "shots fired" during a fatal police shooting in West Garfield Park.

LeGrier's father told the Tribune that his son had "emotional issues" that made him angry.  He believes the officer "messed up" and shot recklessly as his son came to the front door, hitting him several times and also striking Jones.

"I don't feel that his life was worth losing because he got upset," Antonio LeGrier said.

Jones' relatives believe she was behind LeGrier, near the entrance to her apartment, and was shot by mistake.

"I want this investigation to be thorough. I want answers," said Evelyn Glover Jennings, Jones' cousin. "She's my first cousin. Her blood is crying out from the grave saying, 'Evelyn, avenge me.' "

The Police Department would not say where the victims were standing when they were shot, but blood could be seen in the small vestibule and just inside Jones' apartment.  At least one bullet appeared to have traveled through Jones' apartment, hitting at least two walls.

Latisha Jones, 19, said she woke to gunfire and found her mother on the floor of her apartment with a gunshot wound to the neck. “She wasn’t saying anything,” Jones said. “I had to keep checking for a pulse."

Latisha Jones said she put her hand up to her mother’s face and she was still breathing. Jones was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.

While Latisha Jones talked to a reporter, a car drove up to the intersection and a woman stepped outside. “Police shot my mama!” she yelled, crying and swearing.

LeGrier's mother was critical of how police handled the situation. Janet Cooksey, 49, said the family has been told her son was shot seven times.

"He's gone, he's gone. Seven times he was shot," Cooksey said. "He didn't have a gun. He had a bat. One or two times would have brought him down.

“You call the police, you try to get help and you lose a loved one," she said. "What are they trained for? Just to kill? I thought that we were supposed to get service and protection. I mean, my son was an honors student. He's here for Christmas break, and now I've lost him.

"I'm trying to be strong because I pray. But that's my only child. And I'm hurting. I'm hurting real bad," she said.

She directed her anger at Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been under fire since the video was released last month showing a Chicago police officer fatally shooting the 17-year-old McDonald, firing 16 times.

"Are we gonna get protected or is the police just gonna keep taking lives?" Cooksey asked. "I mean, who's gonna answer these questions? Emanuel, I want a personal apology for my son's life. I don't want you to get on the news and say you're so ... I want a personal apology."

Cooksey acknowledged that her son "had mental issues" but insisted they were no cause for how police reacted.

"They did tell me he was shot seven times. That's a bit much. That's a bit much," she said. "I don't take all of that. My son only weighed about 150 pounds. ... Why do you have to be shot that many times? Why? If the police are trained in the field, then how, they're just handling the situation by killing people?"

Cooksey said her son had graduated with honors from Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy and was studying engineering at Northern Illinois University. “My son was going somewhere,” she said. “He wasn’t just a thug on the street.”

A police source said investigators were waiting for the autopsy to determine how many times LeGrier was shot.

The source also said investigators were looking into whether responding officers knew they were dealing with someone with mental health issues and whether anyone on the scene was equipped with a Taser. The source said no gun was recovered at the scene.

Bettie Jones' relatives said they, too, have "so many questions and no answers."

"I'm numb right now," said her brother, Melvin Jones. "Right now there's a whole lot of anger, a whole lot of tears.

Jones lived in the first-floor apartment with her boyfriend, he said. She was the mother of four daughters and a son, her brother said. The daughters are 38, 33 and 19-year old twins. The son is 30.

Melvin Jones said he and about 15 other relatives were at the apartment Friday to celebrate Christmas with food, family and card games.

"She had an excellent Christmas. Family was over," Melvin Jones said. "And then to wake up to this.

"You see it on the news and think that something needs to be done," Melvin Jones said, referring to recent shootings by Chicago police. "It really hits you and it just leaves you numb.

"I don't have time to feel," he added. "I have a funeral to prepare."

Robin Andrews, Bettie Jones' youngest brother, said Jones had been battling ovarian cancer for several years and had recently taken time off at work to recuperate.

"She was already sick," he said through tears. "She was already fighting for her life."

Andrews and his wife drove from Milwaukee when they heard the news around 8:30 a.m. Inside Jones' kitchen, Andrews wept openly, pounding the top of the refrigerator as he cried out, clinging to his wife who held him.

The house was full of family members, some of them crying out and others sitting in shock on the brown leather couch, shaking their heads.

No comments: