Relatives of 2 killed in Chicago question police shootings

  • 28/12/2015
Janet Cooksey, mother of Quintonio Legrier, (C) is consoled by relatives and friends, after speaking to the media in Chicago, Illinois (Reuters)
Janet Cooksey, mother of Quintonio Legrier, (C) is consoled by relatives and friends, after speaking to the media in Chicago, Illinois (Reuters)

Grieving friends and relatives of two people shot by police in Chicago on Saturday (local time) have questioned why officers in the US "shoot first and ask questions later", saying police in the city have failed its residents.

Quintonio LeGrier, 19, and downstairs neighbour Bettie Jones, 55, were both killed when police came to respond to a domestic incident. Both victims were black.

Police claim Ms Jones was accidentally hit by gunfire.

"For me to just look at the news and see that she was shot down – a beautiful woman, a beautiful woman," friend Jacqueline Walker told media at a conference outside the resident where the incident occurred.

"[Why must police] shoot first and ask questions later? It's ridiculous."

The shootings come while the city's police force is already under scrutiny after the release of a video showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014, prompting a federal civil rights investigation.

Van Dyke faces six counts of first-degree murder and one charge of official misconduct. Officials are investigating patterns of racial bias in the use of force by Chicago police as well as how the department handles the accusations against officers.

The shootings come after a series of deaths of African-Americans at the hands of white police officers, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

People at the news conference wore black T-shirts criticising Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying "Rahm Failed Us".

Mr LeGrier's mother, Janet Cooksey, placed candles outside the two-storey home where the two died.

"I used to watch the news daily and I would grieve for other mothers, other family members, and now today I'm grieving myself," she said.

Others urged police to use non-lethal methods like stun guns to subdue people like Mr LeGrier.

"Something is seriously wrong," said Reverend Marshall E Hatch, who attended the vigil. "How in the middle of all this scrutiny [can you] have a trigger-happy policeman?"

The Police Department claims officers "were confronted by a combative subject, resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon".

"The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed," says the police statement, which offers "deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends".

The race of the officer or officers in question has not yet been disclosed. It isn't clear how many officers responded or how many times the pair were shot.

Quintonio's father, Antonio, told the Chicago Sun-Times his son had been a "little agitated" after he chose not to go to a family holiday gathering. He said he called police when, at around 4:15am, his son tried to bust his locked bedroom door open, yelling, "You're not going to scare me."

Ms Jones, who lived a floor below, said she had seen Quintonio outside with a baseball bat.

Antonio told the paper he heard Ms Jones yell "whoa, whoa, whoa!" when police arrived and heard gunshots as he came down from the second floor to see his son and Ms Jones lying in the foyer.

The shootings are under investigation by Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority, which is yet to comment.

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