Just a year after the infamous Laquan McDonald shooting that left Chicago in riots and chaos, another controversial shooting of a young black male has occurred in Cook County.
College student Quintonio LeGrier and his downstairs neighbor, Bettie Jones, were fatally shot by Chicago Police after responding to a domestic disturbance complaint on behalf of Quintonio’s father. Jones, 55, answered the door, and LeGrier, 19, descended into the apartment holding an aluminium bat—which apparently was enough of a threat to prompt the responding officers to fire multiple times at LeGrier, and accidentally hit Jones in the chest.
Quintonio’s father Antonio LeGrier is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Chicago, whose mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, is cutting his vacation short to deal with the crumbling police force. Antonio is alleging the officer shot his son without justification, used excessive force, and failed to provide medical care as he lay bleeding on the floor.
The shooting raises questions as to the appropriateness of police protocol in responding to violent situations, especially ones where firearms aren’t involved and the person has a history of mental illness, which LeGrier reportedly had. Even city representative Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, told reporters, “police officers have batons, police officers have tasers, police officers have pepper spray…but I don’t know how a bat instantly equals a bullet.”
LeGrier and Jones’ community held a candlelight vigil in honour of the two. Family members hung portraits and laid flowers at makeshift graves to honour the dead. Amid a backdrop of a gospel-inspired “This Little Light of Mine”, members of the community spoke to reporters about the shooting.
The Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, which Jones attended, said in reference to Jones, “God has a way often of using blood of the innocent to proclaim a message that cannot be ignored,” Hatch said. “… She was simply being a good neighbour to open the door for the police. She’s now become a victim of police violence in Chicago.”
Albert Person, LeGrier’s cousin and a friend of Jones’, expressed frustration about the shooting, claiming he witnessed the whole event from his doorway across the street and saw nothing that would warrant a shoot-out.
“This has to stop, and this has to stop now,” said Ja’Mal Green, known for his activism in the MacDonald case. “We need to put more pressure on leaders to finally change the CPD culture in our neighbourhoods, and to finally change how the police act toward us”, saying about Mayor Emmanuel, “You failed us before, but now is your time to stand up, or step down.”
“I’m frustrated. I’m angry,” Said Susan Clay of non-profit, anti-violence group Action Now, of which LeGrier was an active member. “Here we have another situation where an innocent person was killed,” she said. “Now this hits closer to home.”
This type of story has become all too common, especially in bigger cities like Chicago. Quintonio’s mother, Janet Cooksey, told reporters: “Police are supposed to serve us and protect us, and instead they kill us. What’s wrong with this picture?”