Nineteen-year-old Quintonio LeGrier wasn't exactly in the holiday spirit last week. The honor roll student who ran in a marathon for charity two years ago skipped dinner on Christmas, and when his father, Antonio, returned home that night, they argued. At one point before dawn on Saturday, LeGrier—who had recently been hospitalized for dehydration and hyperactivity, and whose mother says he was mentally ill—began brandishing a metal baseball bat. His father called the cops, and warned a neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, about what was going on.
Jones and the teenager were both dead by sunrise, shot and killed by a Chicago police officer.
In the latest incident of violence by America's second-largest police force, family members say officers unloaded multiple shots into both Jones and LeGrier upon arrival at the scene, as the New York Times reports. After weeks of unrest following the delayed release of the video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald getting shot 16 times, the incident quickly added fuel to the fire of local resentment of police and represents the latest headache for embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Responding officers attributed the shootings to a "combative subject," with police suggesting LeGrier came charging down the stairs with the bat and that Jones—a grandmother who was active with local anti-violence community groups—was accidentally shot in the mayhem. But family members and activists say the incident just speaks to how poorly equipped cops are at dealing with people who are suffering from mental problems—and, of course, itchy police trigger fingers.
"You call for help, and the police are supposed to serve us and protect us, and yet they take the lives," Janet Cooksey, LeGrier's mother, told the Times. "What's wrong with that picture? It's a badge to kill?"
According to initial autopsy reports, Jones was fatally shot in the chest and LeGrier suffered several wounds; the final reports, which have yet to be released, may shed light on the discrepancy between the number of shots tallied by family and the county medical examiner.
Since the McDonald video exploded onto the scene , Emanuel has ousted his police superintendent and replaced the head of his city's notoriously inept independent police review body. Earlier this month, the feds finally added Chicago to the various cities whose police forces' the Department of Justice is probing for excesses. But Emanuel has recently been re-elected, meaning that those who blame him for the city's policing problems will have a while to wait to hold him accountable.
"There are serious questions about yesterday's shootings that must be answered in full by the Independent Police Review Authority's investigation," Emanuel, who's currently vacationing in Cuba, said in a statement Sunday. "While their investigation is underway, we must also make real changes within our Police Department today, and it is clear changes are needed to how officers respond to mental health crises.
In the meantime, the officer who did the shooting has reportedly been placed on administrative leave but has yet to be identified to the public. LaGrier's father told the Chicago Sun-Times that the cop knew "he had messed up" and was standing outside, distraught and yelling, after the shooting.
Given the Windy City's abysmal track record when it comes to holding cops accountable for crimes of any kind, it's safe to say local activists aren't exactly holding their breath. Protesters were reportedly planning to march from McDonald's family church to City Hall on Monday.
Follow Matt Taylor on Twitter.