WEST GARFIELD PARK — Grief and outrage coursed through New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on Wednesday as hundreds of friends, co-workers, community members and public officials gathered to mourn the death of 55-year-old Bettie Jones.
Jones was shot the day after Christmas by officers responding to a domestic disturbance call in the 4700 block of West Erie Street. Her upstairs neighbor had called police on his son, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who had become agitated and was swinging a baseball bat, according to Jones' family and court documents.
LeGrier's father called Jones and asked her to open the door for police, but officers shot her through the door and killed her, according to family statements and court documents.
LeGrier, 19, also was fatally shot in the incident.
Police gave no account of how Jones died, other than to call her death a "tragic accident."
In an emotional tribute to their mother Wednesday, 19-year-old twins Latisha and Latasha Jones described their mother as wholly devoted to her family.
"My mama was everything to me. She gave me so much," Latasha Jones said. "She was a proud mother of all her kids. And when we weren't happy, she wasn't happy."
After some family members and visiting ministers offered prayers and rememberances of Bettie's pivotal role in her family, Latisha was the first speaker to turn the audience's attention what she called un unjust killing.
"My mom didn't deserve this, man," Latisha said, to a roar of applause. "All she was trying to do was help [the police]. And now we're hurt, and we're crying."
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 last year, according to family members. After a successful surgery, 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," her brother, Robbin Andrews, had said after the shooting. "She was always trying to help, sharing whatever little food she had in her fridge. She was one of a kind like that."
Speaking after the family members, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said the shooting was a call to action for the community to rally together and push for police reforms.
"No one deserves this. ... This was not an accident. It is a pattern," Ervin said. "It is an embarrassment when citizens in a civilized society don’t have the same protection as those on the other side of town."
Head pastor Marshall Hatch and Rev. Jesse Jackson both gave euglogies citing the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the biblical passage that originated the phrase "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Jones died, they noted, after she woke up in the middle of the night to help her upstairs landlord.
"She was a good neighbor, because she was compassionate. And being a good neighbor always costs something," Hatch said. "And it's strange to think about, but she was there, ready to help, at 4 in the morning, no matter the cost."
Latisha and Latasha filed a lawsuit against the city Monday over their mother's death at the hands of police. Calling the shooting excessive and unjustified, the sisters filed a wrongful death suit. Latisha is seeking damages for emotional distress stemming from the incident, according to court documents. They're seeking at least $100,000 in damages.
"Bettie Ruth Jones faced a hail of bullets being fired by an on-duty Chicago Police Department officer at and in the direction of her home and her, with bullets going through the doorway, and through the walls of the home where her 19-year-old daughter ... and others were located and at risk of injury and death," the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit alleges that officers did not attempt to help Jones or LeGrier after they were shot, and that they stopped Latisha from aiding her mom, who apparently was alive after being shot.
Police "were confronted by a combative subject [LeGrier] resulting in the discharging of an officer's weapon," according to a statement released by police after the shootings.
A police statement sent the night of Dec. 26 said: "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."
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