Chicago police shooting protests planned as mayor demands reform
(CNN) — Two more shooting deaths by Chicago police are prompting swift action by the city’s 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 Chicago Police Department and the leaders of the Independent Police Review Authority to meet immediately to “determine the deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them.”
‘There’s a crisis in this city’
But that may not be enough to quell protesters Monday, many who are incensed that the mayor has yet to return to Chicago from a holiday vacation in Cuba.
The Rev. Marshall Hatch, the pastor at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, where Jones worshipped, told CNN on Monday that he suggested to the mayor that there be “total and complete transparency” if Emanuel has hope of persuading some Chicagoans to trust police.
“Some of us may be interested in calling for his resignation if we thought he would,” Hatch said. “I think he should come back to Chicago. There’s a crisis in the city. … I suggest that he gets back here.”
Demonstrators will march from the family church where Laquan McDonald’s relatives say they worship. The teen, in foster care for most of his life, was gunned down in October 2014 by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Video footage showed the 17-year-old walking down the middle of a street then veering away from squad cars, his back to them, when he was shot 16 times.
A freelance journalist sued to have the video released. More than a year later, in November 2015, the video became public and spurred massive protests during the Thanksgiving holiday, many demonstrators then calling for Emanuel to leave office.
Amid that uproar, Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
Van Dyke, who has a history of complaints against him, mostly for excessive force, was charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is out of jail on bond.
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 nonlethal 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.”
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 the 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.”
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.”