A college student who was one of two people killed by a Chicago police officer Saturday had a baseball bat and was agitated, according to family members who also said the officer over-reacted in opening fire.
Chicago police said engineering student Quintonio LeGrier, 19, was shot to death by a police officer responding to a report of a domestic dispute, and amid the gunfire the officer accidentally killed a neighbor, Bettie Jones, 55.
Meanwhile, racial tensions were on the rise Sunday in Chicago as angry demonstrators and family member of those killed held a news conference accusing the police of violence against blacks in the city.
“If you’re afraid of these streets to the point where you got to shoot first, you need to turn your badge in,” Betty Turner, LeGrier’s great aunt, told reporters.
The shooting is under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority, which conducts a review of all police-involved shootings in Chicago.
The killings occur amid national concerns about a series of African-American shooting deaths by police, events that have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. Both LeGrier and Jones are black. The U.S. Justice Department launched an inquiry last week into the Chicago Police Department’s handling of an investigation into the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot 16 times by a city police officer.
McDonald is black. The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder in November for the teen’s death, as the court-ordered release of a police dashboard video showing the October 2014 shooting was made public. Demonstrators have since taken to the streets in Chicago demanding the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Many demonstrators Sunday raised questions about why the city’s police do not make better use of non-lethal means of dealing with disturbances. “What ever happened to Tasers?” Michael Pfleger, a prominent activist and Catholic priest in Chicago, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page. “When does this stop?”
Saturday’s shooting began when LeGrier arrived a “little agitated” at his father’s apartment at 4:15 a.m. with a baseball bat and tried to break down his locked bedroom door, the elder Antonio LeGrier told the Chicago Sun-Times. Antonio LeGrier told the newspaper that he called the police and then alerted Jones, his downstairs neighbor, that his son was a “little irate” and not to open her door unless police arrived.
The Chicago Tribune quoted the police dispatcher as saying, a “male caller said someone is threatening his life. It’s also coming in as a domestic. The 19-year-old son is banging on his bedroom door with a baseball bat.”
Antonio LeGrier told the Sun-Times that he heard Jones yell, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” and then a series of gunshots. He said police told him his son was shot seven times. Jones’ relatives told the Tribune they believe she was standing behind Quintonio LeGrier when a police officer opened fire.
The newspaper reported that blood could be seen in a small vestibule of the building and just inside Jones’ apartment. The victim’s daughter, Latisha Jones, 19, told the newspaper she was awakened by gunfire and found her mother on the floor of her apartment with a gunshot wound to the neck.
Relatives said that Quintonio LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University, had struggled with mental issues in recent months. His mother, Janet Cooksey, told reporters Sunday that her son had started to show some emotional issues after he began attending school and was hospitalized for a day. She described his condition as being “a little hyper.”
“My son was happy. He’s not an angry child. He’s not a violent child. He’s a good child,” she said.