Deaths of two in Chicago raise tensions with police

Michael Tarm
Associated Press

Chicago — Grieving relatives and friends of two people shot and killed by Chicago police said Sunday the slayings raised concerns about why officers “shoot first and ask questions later,” adding that law enforcement officials had failed the city’s residents.

Quintonio LeGrier, 19, was killed early Saturday by police responding to a domestic disturbance, along with downstairs neighbor Bettie Jones, 55, police said.

Jones was hit accidentally, police said. Both victims were black.

“For me to just look at the news and see that she was shot down — a beautiful woman, a beautiful woman. It hurts my heart to see that,” said Jacqueline Walker, a friend of Jones.

At a news conference outside the residence where the victims lived, Walker said police should use stun guns or other nonlethal methods.

Why must police “shoot first and ask questions later?” Walker asked.

The shootings came amid scrutiny of police after a series of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of officers gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Chicago Police Department is under 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.

Family members and others at the news conference wore black T-shirts critical of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, told reporters that the police “are supposed to serve us and protect us, and yet they take the lives.”

“Something just needs to be done,” she added. “I used to watch the news daily and I would grieve for other mothers, other family members, and now today I’m grieving myself.”

The Chicago Police Department said in a statement Saturday that officers who responded to a 911 call “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon.”

“The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed,” according to the statement.

Jones, a mother of five who hosted family for Christmas, and LeGrier, a college student home for break, were pronounced dead at hospitals.

Police did not disclose the race of the officer, saying only that those involved will be placed on administrative duties for 30 days.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the the shootings are being investigated by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority.

IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt also declined comment.

The federal civil rights investigation was launched after last month’s release of police dashcam video showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. It is not clear whether there are any video recordings of Saturday’s shootings.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis were among about 100 neighbors, activists and others who attended a vigil later Sunday for Jones and LeGrier outside their home. A sign held by one person read, “Stop Killing Us.”