The 'accidental' shooting death of Bettie Jones
Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old mother of five and grandmother of nine, was fatally shot in the chest one day after Christmas on the West Side of Chicago in 2015.
In a shooting that has enraged neighbors, city leaders and the community, Jones was shot in the chest at nearly point-blank range outside her apartment by a police officer.
Her funeral, in which Jones laid in a red casket, with florals all around, was full of city leaders and niceties common at such somber occasions: A pastor spoke of being "saddened at her misfortune departure." Another well-wisher mentioned his "deepest condolences." But soon enough, the strain of the circumstances surrounding Jones' tragic shooting came to the fore.
“Her sacrifice now clearly demonstrates the dysfunction between this police department and the community that they claim to police," volunteered the Rev. Marshall Hatch, senior pastor of New Mount Pilgrim. He went on, "“Her sacrifice now clearly demonstrates the dysfunction between this police department and the community that they claim to police. There’s no way that she should have expected aggression from sworn officers of the peace.”
He continued, according to the New Yorker, “We are the offspring, many of us, of slaves, some of us just one and two generations from rural Mississippi and Arkansas and Alabama and Georgia. And, in spite of the odds, we keep on trying to fight back and fight for our rights and our dignity. But, in spite of our challenges, we expect—and demand—that the police treat criminals like criminals. But they cannot assume all of us to be suspects and threats. Treat the innocent like the innocent.”
"My mama didn't deserve this," Latonya Jones said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "The day after Christmas, the police took my mama from us for no reason. All she tried to do was help them and this is how she gets repaid? We're hurting right now, we're crying because of these police."
Jones died along with 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, Jones' neighbor. LeGrier's father told CNN that it was he who called 911 on his son -- so that he could get the help he needed -- but he never imagined that police officers would respond with such ferocity that they would leave two people dead in their wake, especially his son.
"I never once thought that when he entered that staircase, that his life would be ended by someone who didn't know what to do," he told CNN.
After the boy's father called police, it was Jones who agreed to let the police into the apartment, according to a widely circulated police report on the incident.
"Upon arrival, officers were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon which fatally wounded two individuals," Chicago police said, according to CNN.
"The 55 year old female victim was accidentally struck and tragically killed," Chicago police said in a statement. This "accident" immediately enraged the community. "The department extends it's deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends."
The report seemed to lay blame at Jone's feet, pointing out that she had moved into the line of fire.
"Jones motioned to step back into her apartment; at which time, police fired shots in an attempt to stop Quintonio," according to the report, cited by CNN.
Jones was pronounced dead at 4:51 a.m. at the hospital. LeGrier was pronounced dead at 5:14 a.m. at another hospital.
"It seems to be more hiding the ball and not the transparency Mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked about," Larry Rogers Jr., a lawyer representing Jones' family, told the Chicago Tribune.
At Jones' funeral, her daughter LaTonya -- beside herself with grief -- zeroed in on the ills of law enforcement when she addressed the crowd.
“My mother didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve this,” she said, according to the New Yorker. "The day after Christmas, the police take my mama from us for no reason. And all she tried to do was help them. And this is how she’s been repaid? Her life got taken away for helping the city! She didn’t have nothing to do with nothing. And now we’re hurt right now, we’re crying. Because of these police.” The applause was heavy and sustained. “Stop all these police killing all these innocent people for nothing.”
After the Jones shooting, a much-heralded report by a Chicago task force looking into the city's police tactics and race found that, according to the New Yorker, endorsed the view that Chicago police “have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”
“The community’s lack of trust in C.P.D. is justified,” according to the report, which was reported on in the New York Times. “There is substantial evidence that people of color — particularly African-Americans — have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.”
"An innocent lady got shot as well, because the police were trigger happy," Janet Cooksey, LeGrier's mother, told WLS TV. "I went to the hospital. My son has seven bullet holes in him."
Both the teenager's family and Joneses' have filed lawsuits against the city.