He was a promising engineering student who grew up in foster care and was determined to make something of himself. She was a mother of five who loved church and dancing, and had just hosted her family Christmas.
In the early hours of Dec. 26, both were killed by Chicago cops responding to a 911 call over the student—a heartbreaking incident that comes weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice announced an investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s use of excessive force against minorities.
Authorities confirmed a Chicago police officer “accidentally” shot Bettie Jones, 55, as she answered the door for police, who had arrived after her neighbor Antonio LeGrier, the father of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, reported a domestic disturbance.
Both Jones and LeGrier were black. The student’s father described the officer who shot them as white or Hispanic.
The deadly encounter occurred about 4:30 a.m., not long after the elder LeGrier called cops and said his son, armed with an aluminum bat, was behaving erratically and had tried to bust through the dad’s locked bedroom door.
Antonio LeGrier called police, then Jones, who lived downstairs in the two-unit building. “My son is a little irate. Do not open the door unless police arrive,” LeGrier warned her, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Soon after, the father heard Jones yell, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” followed by a blast of gunshots. As he headed down the stairs, the elder LeGrier found his son and Jones lying in the residence’s foyer, the Sun-Times reported.
They had apparently been shot from outside the building’s front door, according to relatives.
Antonio LeGrier told the Sun-Times the officer who killed Jones and the younger LeGrier quickly realized he had “messed up.” LeGrier said he saw the lawman standing outside about 30 feet from the victims’ bodies, apparently in shock.
“F—, no, no, no. I thought he was lunging at me with the [baseball] bat,” the officer allegedly yelled, according to LeGrier.
Autopsy results showed Jones was shot in the chest, according to ABC 7 in Chicago.
Quintonio LeGrier—who relatives say struggled with mental health issues—was shot seven times, according to his family.
Police haven’t released many details about the officer or officers involved or an account of how many bullets struck the grandmother or the student. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed LeGrier was shot multiple times, ABC 7 reported.
Both were pronounced dead at hospitals within an hour of the shooting, which is being probed by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority. The officer, or officers, who shot LeGrier and Jones will be placed on 30-day administrative duty, authorities said.
On Sunday, friends and relatives held a press conference to demand answers from the city, which is already under fire over the police force’s poor relationship with the city’s African-American community.
They stood in the rain wearing T-shirts with the words “Rahm Failed Us”—referring to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s possible role in covering up alleged police misconduct, particularly in the case of Laquan McDonald, a black teen who was shot 16 times by a white cop in 2014. (Video footage of that shooting was kept from the public until last month.)
Jones’s nephew, Jahmal Cole, told reporters his aunt “should not have had to open her door and be shot down by a Chicago police officer,” ABC 7 reported.
“While I’m tempted to feel hate… I know this is a difficult time we have to get past in our city,” Cole added. “This is not the time for hatred in our city, not the time for violence.”
Jones, a mother, grandmother, and bakery worker, was also an activist with Action Now, a local group focused on city violence and criminal justice reform, among other issues. The organization has launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for her funeral expenses.
Childhood friend Jacqueline Walker called Jones a “beautiful woman” and cried, “Why you got to shoot first and ask questions later?… This is ridiculous. What about [using] the Taser? Don’t start shooting innocent people.”
At the press conference, Quintonio LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, held up a picture of her son and said, “Why couldn’t he be in the hospital if something had to happen, rather than in the morgue?”
LeGrier was on holiday break from Northern Illinois University, where he majored in electrical engineering technology, the Associated Press reported.
Cooksey said her son was shot seven times—including once in the buttocks. “That showed that he was turning away” from police, she said.
“My son was a good child,” Cooksey said. “He was a child that wanted things. He always said, ‘I’m going to work hard, study hard.’”
“Something just needs to be done,” she added. “I used to watch the news daily and I would grieve for other mothers, other family members, and now today I’m grieving myself.”
Cooksey questioned when Emanuel—who has faced protests and calls to resign over his handling of the McDonald shooting—would fix minority neighborhoods’ broken relationship with cops.
“You call for help. The police are supposed to serve and protect us, and yet they take lives,” Cooksey said. “What’s wrong with that picture—it’s a badge to kill?”
Antonio LeGrier described his son as a “whiz kid” who struggled emotionally after going into foster care at age 4 and spending most of his childhood there, the Sun-Times reported. The father said Quintonio was admitted to a hospital last month and prescribed medication to help him cope with mental health issues.
Still, friends and relatives said LeGrier was determined to become a future leader. Classmates told the Chicago Tribune he was always smiling and helping others with homework.
LeGrier said he wanted to “be somebody,” one friend, Lauryn White, told the Tribune. “He was just a really overall good friend.”
In 2013, LeGrier ran the Chicago Marathon to raise money for clean drinking water for African children, the Sun-Times reported.
Earlier this month, LeGrier became a member of his university’s Black Male Initiative, a professional and community service organization, the group’s president, Jacob Clayton, told The Daily Beast.
“We do whatever we can to help the progress of the African-American male and break stereotypes associated with us,” Clayton said of the student organization.
Clayton said LeGrier became an active member this school year and recently volunteered with parking at a football game.
“He was on the up and up,” Clayton said. “He was trying to do community service, and he was doing a good job at it.”
“He really wanted to take himself seriously,” Clayton added. “He saw himself as a future leader. He wasn’t there yet. Like all of us, he just needed the polishing… but that was all taken away from him.”
Clayton said the Black Male Initiative would work to improve police relations and hold a candlelight vigil for LeGrier once holiday break ends.
“When it comes to the African-American man, it’s ‘Shoot first, ask questions later,’ and that needs to change,” Clayton told The Daily Beast.