It was the last thing the already embattled and much maligned Chicago Police Department needed after the indictment of one of its own, Officer Jason Van Dyke. But the day after Christmas, Chicago PD found itself answering questions regarding yet another officer-involved shooting.
In the latest incident, police had shot and killed two people – one seemingly on purpose, the other by accident — in the West Side neighborhood of West Garfield Park at 4:30 that morning. They were responding to a call about a domestic disturbance involving 19 year-old engineering student Quintonio LeGrier. His father had apparently made the call and reported to police his son was carrying an aluminum baseball bat, acting erratically, and threatening his life. The other person to die from police gunfire was LeGrier’s downstairs neighbor, Bettie Jones, a 55 year-old mother of five, who was unintentionally killed in the shootings.
Police say they were confronted by LeGrier upon their arrival and were forced to fire their weapons. Although the department offered very few details, LeGrier’s family counted at least 7 gunshot wounds on his body. Relatives claim LeGrier had been struggling with mental health issues in the recent months and was acting strangely out of his usual character. But they can find no answers to the question of why an honor student was shot as many as seven times – maybe even more — when he carried no firearm of his own during the confrontation. In an exercise of a recent change to department policy, the responding officers were placed on 30 days of routing administrative leave – a dramatic shift from the prior policy of only 3 days. A police source said an investigation is now underway to examine whether the officers knew about LeGrier’s mental health concerns and whether any of them were equipped with a Taser when they responded. An autopsy will also determine how many times LeGrier was actually shot.
Relatives of Bettie Jones are also demanding answers. They believe Jones was standing behind LeGrier when he allegedly confronted the responding officers and was caught in the shooting. She was a downstairs neighbor of LeGrier, living in the first-floor apartment with her boyfriend. LeGrier’s father had apparently asked her to wait for the police and look out for their arrival according to accounts by both families. Only hours before, Jones had many of her relatives over to celebrate the holidays. She had been battling ovarian cancer for several years and had recently taken time off from work at a bakery to heal.
Only weeks before, Chicago Police was thrust into the national spotlight in regard to the shooting death of then 16 year-old LaQuan McDonald. A judge had ordered the release of police dashcam video that conclusively refuted the department’s earlier claims McDonald had charged at officers and the officers acted in self-defense when they shot and killed him. The video, instead, showed the teenager walking toward police cars then turning away then falling to the ground abruptly. Sixteen shots were fired within a span of 15 seconds all from a single police officer – Jason Van Dyke. Fallout from that incident included the firing of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the initiation of a federal civil rights investigation, and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s resignation. Those calls for Mayor Emanuel’s resignation are now bound to get only louder with the latest shooting of two people on Chicago’s West Side.
Pollard PLLC is a litigation boutique based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Jonathan Pollard earned his B.A. from Cornell University and J.D. from Georgetown Law where he was an editor of the law review. He began his career at the prominent litigation firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. For more information, contact the firm at 954-332-2380.