LeGrier and Jones Families Demand Answers From Chicago Police
LeGrier, 19, shot 7 times; Jones, 55, caught in line of fire
CHICAGO — With all that has happened and all that has come to fore like the release of the videos showing Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by white police, the Ronald Johnson fatal shooting by white police; the mishandling of Phillip Coleman by police, which led to his death, and then the acquittal of police commander Glenn Evans of all charges for allegedly shoving a gun down Ricky Williams’ throat, it seems that business continues as usual in Chicago.
Police have released few details about the December 26 shooting, saying in a statement, “11th District Harrison officers responded to a domestic disturbance on the 4700 block of West Erie St. Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon, fatally wounding two individuals. The matter remains under investigation and all further inquiries can be directed to the Independent Police Review Authority.”
On the morning the day after Christmas two families found themselves mourning the death of their loved ones, both shot by Chicago police officers after officers around 4:30 am responding to a call about a domestic disturbance shot and killed 19-year-old engineering student, Quintonio LeGrier and a 55-year-old Bettie Jones, mother of five.
Bettie Jones lived in the first-floor apartment with her boyfriend. She was the mother of four daughters and a son. The daughters are 38, 33 and 19-year old twins. The son is 30.
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 shootings follow weeks of protests over the death of Laquan McDonald, which have put the spotlight on the Chicago Police Department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Officers were called to the home located on West Garfield Park around 4:30 a.m. The police report states a dispatcher related 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,” according to radio traffic.
The officers were “confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon, fatally wounding two individuals,” the department said in a brief statement.
Family members of Quintonio LeGrier, an honors student at Northern Illinois University said he had been struggling with mental health issues recently.
According to Janet Cooksey, LeGrier’s mother, she and his father had spoken about taking him to the hospital for re-evaluation after the holidays. She mentioned that he had been taking medication which seemed make his behavior worse so she had suggested that he stop taking it.
Both families have said that Bettie Jones was a downstairs neighbor who had been asked by LeGrier’s father to keep an eye out for the arrival of the police.
No official statement by the police or any other source has provided an account as to how both LeGrier and Jones came to be wounded by one of the officers in front of the two-flat in the 4700 block of West Erie Street.
LeGrier’s father, Mr. LeGrier reported that his son had “emotional issues” that made him angry. He had made the call because his son acted agitated and was carrying an aluminum baseball bat. 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.
If this is true questions have to be answered. Did the victims demonstrate any reason to shoot them? Bettie Jones certainly had no weapon and Le Grier may or may not have been holding a bat but definitely no gun. Further, how close were the police to the two victims? Was there any verbal exchange?
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who represents the district where the shooting occurred, said in a statement, “At this point, we are confronted with a series of unanswered and deeply troubling questions. Why did the officers on the scene need to resort to the use of their firearms to subdue a young man with a bat? Why weren’t the officers equipped with tasers so that Quintonio could be subdued without lethal force? How, during an officer response, did a 55-year-old mother of five come to be struck dead by bullets?”
Antonio LeGrier, the victim’s father said the officer who shot his son was about 30 feet away. He said the officer told him Quintonio LeGrier lunged at him with the bat.
“In my opinion, he knew he had messed up. It was senseless,” Antonio LeGrier told the Sun-Times about the unnamed officer. “He knew he had shot, blindly, reckless into the doorway and now two people are dead because of it.”
Jones’ relatives believe she was behind LeGrier, near the entrance to her apartment, and was shot by mistake. Jones’ daughter says she was shot opening a door for officers.
Evelyn Glover Jennings, Jones’ cousin said of Bettie Jones, “She’s my first cousin; I want this investigation to be thorough. I want answers.”
Being smart and careful, the Police Department would not provide specifics regarding 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.
Jones’ daughter, Latisha Jones, 19, was awakened by gunfire, got up 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.” However she was still breathing. Jones was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Janet Cooksey, LeGrier’s mother criticized how police handled the situation. Confused as to why her son was shot 7 seven times she expressed that she thought that a little excessive.
“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.
“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 noted 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 noted that her son was no thug on the street but rather a graduate from Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy with honors. He was studying engineering at Northern Illinois University. Cooksey said, “My son was going somewhere.”
The police officials said investigators were waiting for the autopsy to determine how many times LeGrier was shot an that 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. No gun was recovered at the scene.
Family members of Bettie Jones said they, too, have “so many questions and no answers.” Her brother, Melvin Jones said, “Right now there’s a whole lot of anger, a whole lot of tears.
Melvin Jones explained that he and about 15 other relatives were at the apartment Friday to celebrate Christmas with food, family and card games. He said that his sister had an excellent Christmas. “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. He added “I don’t have time to feel, I have a funeral to prepare.”
Bettie Jones’ youngest brother, Robin Andrews, who drove in from Milwaukee upon receiving the sad news, said that Bettie had been battling ovarian cancer for several years and had recently taken time off at work to recuperate.
The family had thought that there was hope so the news of her death really hit them hard.