Families of victims in police shooting demand answers

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, December 28, 2015
Families of victims in police shooting demand answers
Grieving relatives of two people killed by Chicago police, one accidentally, are demanding answers from the city.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 55-year-old woman is remembered by friends, family and her community after being accidentally shot and killed by Chicago police while celebrating Christmas with her family at her home in West Garfield Park.

Bettie Jones, a bakery worker, mother of five and grandmother, was killed early Saturday when police responded to a 911 call from a father who lived on the top floor of the same building about his 19-year-old son acting erratic and wielding an aluminum bat, police said.

Quintonio LeGrier, an NIU student, was in the throes of a mental health crisis, officials said.

Police have acknowledged that Jones was shot accidentally. She was shot in the chest, according to autopsy results. However, families for both victims are demanding answers, questioning whether the shooting was warranted.

"Why do you have to shoot first and ask questions later? It's ridiculous," said Jaqueline Walker, Jones' friend.

Jones' family's attorney questioned the officer's training.

"Obviously something is wrong when a 55-year-old grandmother opens the door to let police in and she's the one who end up dead," said attorney Sam Adams, Jr.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement Sunday afternoon, directing a review of and changes to police crisis intervention team training.

"This afternoon I directed the new Acting Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority and the Interim Superintendent of Police to meet with each other as soon as possible to review the Crisis Intervention team training, around how officers respond to mental health calls. I have asked that they determine the deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them," the statement said in part.

Interim Superintendent of Police John Escalante agreed with the mayor in his own statement which said, in part, "I strongly support the Mayor's call for a full evaluation of the effectiveness of the current crisis intervention training and de-escalation policies. I am looking forward to bringing my team to the table with IPRA early this week for a critical evaluation of our policies and procedures."

National Alliance on Mental Illness executive director Alexa James says training is a first and strong step to improving police response to citizens experiencing a mental health crisis or who have mental illness.

"I think the training is fabulous," James says. "I think it's proven to be effective. I think the problem is more officers are not trained in CIT."

NAMI runs the Crisis Intervention Team program for the Chicago Police Department. According to NAMI, only 1,800 of CPD's approximately 11,000 officers are CIT trained, which accounts for about 16 percent of officers on the street. And while every district is supposed to have a CIT-trained team on every shift, that isn't always the case.

LeGrier suffered from a mental illness, according to his mother, who also said he was never violent. He was remembered as a cheerful honor student who shared inspirational quotes with his mother daily.

"I used to watch the news daily and grieve for other mothers and family members," Janet Cooksey said. "Today, I am grieving myself. When does it end? No mother should have to bury her child, especially under these circumstances."

Chicago Congressman Bobby Rush also released a statement in response Saturday's shootings.

"Why weren't tasers used in this incident?" the statement read. "Why were shots fired before other de-escalating tactics were employed? Why does shooting someone to death seem to be the default tactics of the city's police force? These questions and many others require immediate answers."

Activists on the front lines of the protests against police brutality in Chicago echoed Rush's concerns, saying the training problem goes beyond a lack of mental health crisis training.

"One out of five officers is trained to use a taser," says activist Ja'mal Green. "But every officer is trained to kill. That's a problem."

Still in the depths of grief, Jones' nephew Jahmal Cole had harsh words for the police department at press conference Sunday, but added that while it's tempting to feel hatred for police it's also time for better communications between police and the community. He said community members need to also step up.

"I do believe that people need to join block clubs and know their neighbors," Cole said. "I think we need to show compassion for life in Chicago."

The shooting comes after weeks of demonstrations in Chicago over police brutality following the release of a video last month showing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald in October 2014.