'Badge to Kill'? Two More Police Shootings in Chicago Raise Public Ire
In wake of latest deaths, protesters say to Mayor Rahm Emanuel: 'You failed us before, but now's your time to stand up, or step down.'
Tensions are boiling after police in Chicago shot and killed two more people over Christmas weekend.
Responding to a domestic disturbance at a West Side residence on Saturday, officers fatally shot Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and Bettie Jones, 55, authorities said.
Family members reportedly called police to their home Saturday because LeGrier, who had struggled with mental health issues, was threatening his father with a baseball bat. His father then called his downstairs neighbor, Jones, to open the door when officers arrived. According to local station WLS,"[i]t is not clear whether Jones had even finished opening up the door for them when officers fired at LeGrier who was charging down the stairs still carrying the bat."
In a press release issued late Saturday night, Chicago Police Department interim Superintendent John Escalante admitted that Jones—a community activist and mother of five—was an innocent victim who was hit by an errant police bullet.
Autopsy findings released Sunday by the Cook County medical examiner’s office say Jones died from a gunshot to the chest and LeGrier, an engineering student at Northern Illinois University home for the holidays, from multiple gunshot wounds.
"You call for help, and the police are supposed to serve us and protect us, and yet they take the lives," LeGrier's mother Janet Cooksey said on Sunday. "What’s wrong with that picture? It’s a badge to kill?"
"I would grieve for other mothers, other family members; now I’m grieving for myself," said Cooksey. "When does it come to an end?"
The latest shootings come amid public outcry over the 2014 police killing of unarmed black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whose death is shown on dash-cam footage that was released a full 400 days after the incident. The mishandling of McDonald's case reinvigorated outrage over police misconduct and lack of accountability for city officials—especially Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The McDonald incident has also sparked a federal civil rights investigation that will look into patterns of racial disparity in the use of force, how the department disciplines officers, and handles misconduct accusations.
At a vigil held outside the residence on Sunday, calls resounded for Emanuel to answer for the police killings. Several people wore t-shirts that read, "Rahm failed us."
"This has to stop, and this has to stop now," Ja'Mal Green, who has been a leader in the protests in the wake of the McDonald video release, told the Chicago Tribune. "We need to put more pressure on leaders to finally change the CPD culture in our neighborhoods, and to finally change how the police act toward us."
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Green said of Emanuel: "You failed us before, but now's your time to stand up, or step down."
Emanuel, for his part, has called on the Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates shootings like Saturday's, to immediately review "crisis intervention team" training that guides officers on how to handle calls involving mental health crises and determine how to fix deficiencies in that training.
In addition, Escalante on Saturday announced a policy change, that all officers involved in shootings will be shifted to mandatory administrative duty, returning to their assigned bureau for desk duty for 30 days. The new policy includes the officer or officers involved in Saturday's shooting, according to a police statement.
Yet another rally calling for Emanuel's resignation is planned to take place Thursday night. The call to action cites the most recent shootings, reading in part:
The mayor is clearly not serious about reforming his office and the Chicago Police Department and the apartheid system of justice that results in the disproportionate death, torture and abuse of citizens of color.
If he were, he would understand that suppressing the video of the police murder of McDonald to protect his re-election chances is an unforgivable act on the part of an elected official. If he were, he would understand that State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez delay in pursuing justice for McDonald’s death is justice denied. If he were, we wouldn't have lost two more lives of Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGreir.
"The problem for the mayor is that this isn’t going away," Rev. Marshall E. Hatch, who held a private meeting with Emanuel earlier this month, told the New York Times on Sunday. "Every shooting, every unpopular decision, it’s all going to be very problematic for him."