AUSTIN — At a news conference Sunday morning, family members and supporters of the two people shot and killed by police early Saturday demanded answers from police and the mayor. Later in the evening, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced police would conduct a review of how officers respond to mental health calls.
"The police are supposed to serve us and protect us. And yet they take our lives. What's wrong with that picture?" said Janet Cooksey, the mother of slain 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier. "When is the mayor gonna step up? Because we can't get no help from the police. CPD has failed us over and over."
Police were called to the house in the 4100 block of West Erie Street early Saturday due to a "domestic disturbance." Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old engineering student at NIU, was reportedly wielding a bat and having a mental health episode, according to an account his father gave multiple media outlets.
Responding officers shot and killed LeGrier, and also fatally struck 55-year-old Bettie Jones, the downstairs tenant. Police later admitted that killing Jones was an accident and offered their condolences.
Jones' family told DNAinfo Chicago that they believe Jones was struck while opening the front door for police officers. Her daughter found her bleeding on the floor near the entryway, wearing her nightgown. A vigil is scheduled to honor Jones Sunday afternoon.
Sunday evening, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he would call upon the chief officials in the Chicago Police Department and the Independent Police Review Authority to examine the protocol around how police respond to mental health-related incidents, also known as Crisis Intervention Training.
"I have asked that they determine the deficiencies in the current training, and determine what steps can be taken immediately to address them," the mayor said in a statement. "They are serious questions about yesterday's shooting that must be answered in full."
Jahmal Cole, founder of My Hood My Block My City, said his wife was Jones' niece. "Bettie was a loving person that loved music, that loved church. The night of Christmas everybody was playing spades, drinking, having fun, celebrating Christmas like many Chicago families. She should not have to come outside and be shot dead by a police officer," he said.
He urged Chicagoans to come together to demand justice. "When a 55-year-old lady is shot dead by police in Austin, it should matter to people [in other parts of the city]," he said. He said it should be a time of compassion, not hate.
"A [police] badge can amplify your character. If you're a good person it's going to amplify your doing good, and if you're a bad person it will amplify your bad nature," he said.
The officers involved in the incident (police did not confirm how many) were placed on 30-day administrative leave, according to new protocols implemented by interim Police Supt. John Escalante, who took over for Garry McCarthy after he was fired during the Laquan McDonald fallout.
During the news conference, Cooksey disputed the police accounts that LeGrier was being "combative." She said, "That's not my son's character ... he's a happy child, not a violent child."
"My son was a good child. He was a child that wanted things. He always said ... 'You know I'm gonna work hard and study hard.' He was an honor student. It was showing that every day in his grades and in his activity, He ran a marathon last year for a charity.
"I used to watch news daily and I would grieve for other mothers. Today I'm grieving for myself. When do it come to an end? Where do we get answers?"
Cooksey and her family members, along with family and friends of Bettie Jones, demanded answers to what they said was excessive force by police. They asked why the police did not use Tasers or de-escalate the situation. They also mentioned a third person who was shot by police later Saturday afternoon, a Washington Heights man.
Activists from other groups who spoke during the event called for more police accountability, for the resignation of Rahm Emanuel and Anita Alvarez and for more respect between police and communities. Some wore the "Rahm Failed Us" T-shirts that have become staples of marches Downtown and at police stations. Bettie Jones was an activist with Action Now, a group fighting for the rights of working families.
Ja'Mal Green, who has participated in many protests calling for Emanuel's resignation due to the Laquan McDonald case, said that activists would "put more pressure on the leaders to finally change the CPD culture in our neighborhoods. To finally change the way police act towards us. I want the mayor to understand that this message is to you: You failed us before. Now's your time to step up — or step down."
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