AUSTIN — A vigil was held for 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a mother, grandmother and activist who was shot to death "accidentally" by police early Saturday morning, along with 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, an engineering student at NIU who was also shot to death by police.
About 50 family members, friends, advocates and public officials attended the vigil at 2 p.m. Sunday near the home where the shooting occurred at Erie Street and Kilpatrick Avenue, reportedly owned by LeGrier's father and where Jones lived with her 19-year-old daughter Latisha.
Police said officers were called to their house early Saturday due to a "domestic disturbance." LeGrier was reportedly wielding a bat and having a mental health episode, and his father had called police for assistance, according to interviews with the father in multiple news outlets. Responding officers shot and killed both Jones and LeGrier, and police had since called the woman's shooting a tragic accident.
People gathered to grieve, pray, sing and light candles as attendees remembered the lives of Jones and LeGrier. Others called on action from the highest levels of authority in Chicago to reform the Chicago Police Department and bring the officers who shot upon them to justice.
A co-worker of Bettie Jones, a woman shot and killed by police in what they said was an accident on Saturday, cries at a vigil for the woman. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
At the Sunday vigil, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at least one bullet passed through several rooms of Jones' home and could have killed others if they'd been struck.
Jackson, like others at the vigil, compared Jones' and LeGrier's death to that of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot by police 16 times and whose death has stirred controversy in the city. Those at the vigil said President Barack Obama should intervene in the city and visit Chicago to honor and help its shooting victims.
"If he should go to Sandy Hook, and he did, and it was the right thing to do, and to go to France and lay a wreath, and it was the right thing to do, please come to Chicago. This is the epicenter of urban violence," Jackson said. "We need help desparately."
Rev. Jesse Jackson asked for President Barack Obama to help fix the city's issues with police violence at a vigil for Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, two people killed by police this weekend. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Attendees also expressed frustration with police, with one man questioning, "When did bats equate bullets?" as he spoke of LeGrier's death. Politicians, including State Senator Patricia Van Pelt and Congressman Danny Davis, said they would push for change to prevent police violence or said they would call for a civilian-elected board to oversee police conduct.
"The only thing [Jones] did was be black in America," Van Pelt said.
"Bettie Jones was answering the door and letting the police officers into the building when they opened fire and killed her," according to a GoFundMe page set up to help her family pay for her funeral expenses. More than $4,300 had been donated, with a $10,000 goal, as of Sunday morning. Jones was a part of activist group Action Now, which fights for "racial, social and economic justice" for working families.
Janet Cooksey, the mother of Quintonio LeGrier, lit candles for her son at a vigil for him and Bettie Jones. [DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer]
Police later admitted that Jones' shooting was an accident and offered condolences, but did not comment on the circumstances of LeGrier's shooting.
LeGrier was an honor student who last year ran a marathon for charity, according to his mother Janet Cooksey during an earlier news conference.
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."
Cooksey said that her son's friends and classmates from NIU had come to attend the vigil.
In a late Saturday statement, police said officers "were confronted by a combative subject [LeGrier] resulting in the discharging of an officer's weapon. ... The 55 year old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed. The department extends it's [sic] deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends." Police announced that the officers involved (they did not specify how many) would be placed on administrative duty for 30 days.
Jones, a mother of five and grandmother of six, had worked full-time at the Alpha Baking bread factory before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier this year, her brother Robin Andrews said as the family gathered to mourn Saturday morning. After a successful surgery, Andrews said, Jones was looking for an all-clear from her doctor so she could get back to work.
"She was the kind of person who would come home after a 16-hour shift and then ask you if you needed anything," Andrews said. "She was always trying to help, sharing whatever little food she had in her fridge. She was one of a kind like that."
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