Wednesday 21 February 2018

Chicago police face fresh criticism after killing mother of five

Family members comfort one another after Bettie Jones (55) was shot dead Photo: AP
Family members comfort one another after Bettie Jones (55) was shot dead Photo: AP

Tim Walker

Police in Chicago are facing fresh questions about their use of force, after officers accidentally shot dead a 55-year-old woman while responding to a domestic disturbance at a neighbour's home.

Bettie Jones, a mother of five who had hosted her family for Christmas just hours beforehand, was one of two victims killed by police during the incident on Chicago's West Side on Saturday. The city's Police Department is already facing a US Justice Department investigation into alleged civil rights violations.

The other victim was 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, whose father, Antonio, lived in the unit above Ms Jones, and who had called the police, saying his son was threatening him with a baseball bat.

The shooting took place shortly before 4.30am on Stephen's Day. "Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon, fatally wounding two individuals," the Chicago Police Department (CPD) said. "The 55-year-old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed."

Mr LeGrier's mother, Janet Cookery, who was not present during the shooting, said her son had struggled with mental health problems.

Antonio LeGrier told the 'Chicago Sun-Times' that as police arrived, he heard Ms Jones shout: "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" before he heard gunshots from the floor below. Downstairs, he found his son and Ms Jones lying shot in the foyer.

Ms Jones had earlier celebrated Christmas at her home with more than a dozen relatives, her brother Melvin Jones told the 'Chicago Tribune'.

Police did not immediately disclose the race of the officer involved in the shooting. Both of the victims were black. The CPD is one of many police departments across the US facing particular scrutiny over the killings of young black men by its officers.

The Justice Department probe was sparked by the release last month of a video showing the 2014 shooting of black, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a white officer, Jason Van Dyke, who has since been charged with first-degree murder.

The video was not released for more than a year, even though the footage contradicted the police account of the incident. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently dismissed CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy over his handling of the case.

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