ENGLEWOOD — Relatives of an unarmed young father shot and killed by police Saturday after a wild late-morning chase through the neighborhood are raising questions in the wake of his death, which sparked a near-riot in the community.
Jamaal Moore's mother, Gwendolyn, has contacted witnesses, friends and lawyers from her home in the 5600 block of South Shields Avenue in an attempt to find justice in the death of her 23-year-old son. She said she is considering legal action.
"I have so many things to show what happened," she said, citing video footage and photos from community members taken during the violent incident. "They didn't have to kill my son."
Moore is alleged to have been involved in a robbery before the silver SUV he was in crashed into a pole at Ashland Avenue and Garfield Boulevard. He and four other men fled from the SUV, which was being chased by police.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said on the day of the chase that Moore tussled with a uniformed cop who thought Moore had a gun. Moore tossed the male officer around "like a rag doll," McCarthy said.
When Moore allegedly charged at a female officer around 11:15 a.m., she fired twice, killing him. He was later found to be carrying only a flashlight, McCarthy said.
But in interviews, witnesses disputed whether Moore went after the officer, and said he was run over by a police vehicle.
"He didn't charge at her or nothin'," said Christopher Oliver, who lives across the street from where Moore was shot. "He grabbed [the male officer] and pulled him down when they tried to get him from under he car."
After shooting Moore, officers "rolled him over ... then handcuffed him," Oliver alleged.
McCarthy acknowledged officers "may have struck" Moore with a vehicle before he was shot. He said he was unaware if Moore was handcuffed.
After the shooting there was almost a riot in the community, during which multiple witnesses said police slung insults at a crowd of 50 to 60 residents.
"They were laughing and smirking — taunting the crowd," said Darneisha Dixon, a close family friend.
Dozens of officers were dispatched to the scene. Nine people were arrested in the melee, and officers were seen fighting with people in the crowd on video filmed during the fracas.
Five men later were charged with mob action for their alleged roles in the fracas. It was not clear what happened to the other four people arrested, who were not identified.
Family members also questioned what happened after Jamaal Moore was taken to St. Bernard Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:13 p.m.
"It was 1 p.m. before they acknowledged he was there," his father, Joseph Moore, said.
He said police then prevented him from viewing his son's body at St. Bernard, citing the nature of the shooting, and it wasn't until seven hours later when Moore's family was first able to identify his body at the Cook County morgue.
"Our policy is that when anyone comes in in police custody we follow what police advise — we let them take the lead," said Derek Michaels, spokesman for St. Bernard. "An officer stayed with [Moore's] body the whole time. We gave them a space to hold him."
Michaels also noted that Jamaal Moore's body came in without identification, and the hospital was able to notify his father only after his name was confirmed.
The entire incident is now under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority. On Wednesday, McCarthy refused to comment about what happened.
No details about the robbery Moore and the other four men allegedly were involved in before the police chase have been released.
But Moore's family also questioned whether he had the motivation to commit robbery, saying the new father of a 4-month-old boy had turned his life around since getting out of jail several years ago.
"He had so much family support that he definitely wasn't out there robbing anyone," his sister Jaceta Smith, 32, said.
Moore, the youngest of six children, had his hang-ups in the past but lived for his family, family members said.
"He was trying to make things right," his mother said.
When he was 17, Moore served 2½ years in prison for robbery and then found it hard to gain employment and further his education.
He planned to enroll at Kennedy-King College to become an auto technician but encountered difficulty securing financial aid, his family said.
"He told me he wanted to be a mechanic so that we wouldn't have to pay to get our cars fixed," Smith said. "That's just how he was."
Moore, a former Dunbar high school student, enjoyed playing basketball and loved to make people laugh, according to his family.
"There was always something special about that boy," his mother said. "He'd make your bad day good."
Gwendolyn Moore noted that despite a squad car patrol of her block since the day of her son's death, no one from the Police Department has contacted her.
"Is someone going to give me answers?" she asked.
"I believe in accountability," she continued. "If he did the crime, then punish him."
But, as her husband puts it, police shouldn't act "as judge, jury and executioner."