Chicago police ‘accidentally’ kill grandmother; more protests set as mayor demands reform

Posted at 7:56 PM, Dec 26, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-28 07:35:11-05

Two more shooting deaths by Chicago police are prompting swift action by the mayor — as well as by residents who want the mayor to go.

The latest upheaval came after Chicago police fatally shot Bettie Jones, 55, and Quintonio LeGrier, 19, while answering a call about a domestic disturbance.

But Jones, a mother of five, shouldn’t have been shot at all, police say. She was “accidentally struck and tragically killed” by an officer.

And many question the shooting of LeGrier, who police say was combative. LeGrier’s family said he suffered from a mental illness, CNN affiliate WLS reported.

On Sunday night, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel ordered changes in how city police officers are trained to handle calls involving people who may have mental health problems.

“There are serious questions about yesterday’s shootings that must be answered in full by the Independent Police Review Authority’s investigation,” Emanuel said.

“While their investigation is underway, we must also make real changes within our police department today and it is clear changes are needed to how officers respond to mental health crises.”

Emanuel, under fire for a series of fatal police shootings, directed the department and the leaders of the independent Police Review Authority and the police department to meet immediately to “determine the deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them.”

But that may not be enough to quell protesters Monday. Demonstrators will march from the family church of Laquan McDonald — another teen killed by Chicago police — to Chicago’s City Hall, where they will demand Emanuel’s resignation.

Mother: Son was shot seven times

Family members and supporters of LeGrier and Jones are blaming bad leadership and a police culture of “shoot first and ask questions later” for the deaths. Specifically, they asked why police didn’t use non-lethal force, such as stun guns.

Police said an officer shot LeGrier, who was carrying a metal bat and acting in a “combative” manner, early Saturday morning while responding to a call about a domestic disturbance. Jones, a neighbor, was “accidentally struck and tragically killed,” police said.

The shootings come as police in Chicago and across the nation are being scrutinized for the use of deadly force.

LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, said Sunday that police shot her son seven times, once in the buttocks. That meant he was turning away, she said.

“This needs to stop,” Cooksey said, tears streaming down her face as she addressed reporters.. “No mother should have to bury her child, especially under these circumstances. The police are supposed to serve and protect us.”

What happened

Police say the incident began when the teen threatened his father with an aluminum bat. The father called police and then called his downstairs neighbor, Jones, to open the door when officers arrived, CNN affiliate WLS reported.

LeGrier was charging down the stairs still carrying the bat, WLS said. Police opened fire, and both LeGrier and Jones were shot.

The Cook County Medical Examiner told CNN on Sunday that Jones died of a gunshot wound to the chest and LeGrier died of multiple gunshot wounds. Both deaths were ruled homicides, the medical examiner said.

Other details, such as how many shots were fired, were not released by authorities. It’s not known if any video of the shootings exists.

The officer will be on administrative duty for 30 days while an independent police review authority investigates, Chicago police said. He has not been identified.

“The department extends its deepest condolences to the victim’s family and friends,” the police department said in a statement.

‘Where was the Taser?’

Cheryl Dorsey, a retired Los Angeles police sergeant and law enforcement consultant for CNN, also wondered why police didn’t use stun guns.

“Where was the Taser?” she said. “Why didn’t they deploy a Taser? If they didn’t have one on scene, they should have had one with an officer who was responding as backup. What was the urgency? There was no exigent circumstance that the officers could not have waited until a Taser arrived on scene.”

Dorsey said an aluminum bat could cause injury but “is not a deadly force.”

She said “deadly force should have been used (by police) as a last resort and not a first resort.”

Months of turmoil

The shooting Saturday came two days after protests against Chicago police for the killing of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

“Sixteen shots and a cover-up!” the Christmas Eve protesters chanted.

They were referring to the fact it took 13 months before authorities released surveillance video of the 17-year-old’s shooting. And when the video did surface, it contradicted other officers’ accounts of what happened.

Jason Van Dyke, the white Chicago police officer who killed the teenager, was charged with first-degree murder. Van Dyke — who has a history of complaints against him, mostly for excessive force — has pleaded not guilty.

That case contributed to Garry McCarthy losing his job as Chicago’s police superintendent and spurred calls for Emanuel to resign.

The mayor has welcomed a U.S. Justice Department investigation into whether Chicago police have made a habit of violating the law.

“We will be a better city for it,” Emanuel said. “It is in our self-interest, because we need (federal) assistance to make the fundamental and necessary changes.”