Who Was Quintonio LeGrier? The College Student's Death Sparked Renewed Outrage In Chicago
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Chicago police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call shot and killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones in West Garfield Park. Officers were reportedly summoned to LeGrier's home after he started banging on his father Antonio LeGrier's bedroom door with a baseball bat, so the father called 911 asking for help. But when police arrived, they shot Quintonio LeGrier — as well as Jones, whom the department admitted was killed "accidentally" by a bullet meant for LeGrier.
According to his relatives, LeGrier was a college student who was working on overcoming some "mental health issues" that had started after he went off to school at Northern Illinois University. At NIU, LeGrier was a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering, as well as an "avid runner," according to the Chicago Tribune. His father, Antonio, said that he was "a very smart kid with a bright future" who had emotional troubles that made him angry. He also claimed that the Chicago police officer responsible for killing his son had acted recklessly.
In my opinion, he knew he had messed up. It was senseless... I don't feel that [Quintonio's] life was worth losing because he got upset.
The Chicago Police Department referred Bustle's requests for comment to Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which was created by the City Council in 2007 to investigate allegations of police misconduct. IPRA spokesman Larry Merritt told Bustle that "the investigation has just started" and that, to "protect the integrity of the investigation," it was too early for him to go into details.
LeGrier's mother, Janet Cooksey, was not present at the time of the shooting, and she said that her son "didn't have a gun. He had a bat." Cooksey also criticized Chicago police for how they handled the situation, and told the Chicago Tribune that officers allegedly shot her son seven times.
We're thinking the police are going to service us, take him to the hospital. They took his life ... They did tell me he was shot seven times. That's a bit much. That's a bit much. I don't take all of that. My son only weighed about 150 pounds. ... Why do you have to be shot that many times? Why? If the police is trained in the field, then how, they're just handling the situation by killing people?
According to the Associated Press, autopsies — which would determine how many times LeGrier and Jones were shot — were not scheduled as of Saturday.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is on vacation in Cuba, said that the IPRA would forward its findings to prosecutors for review. "Anytime an officer uses force the public deserves answers," Emanuel said. "Regardless of the circumstances we all grieve anytime there is a loss of life in our city."
Before starting at NIU, LeGrier was an honor student at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. He ran cross-country in high school, and his friends recalled that he was also particularly good at math. Lauryn White, a student at NIU who described LeGrier as one of her best friends, said that he wanted to "be somebody," and paid tribute to their friendship in the Tribune.
He was just a really overall good friend. We had our moments where we argued, of course, but what friendship doesn't? Now we can't even do that.
White said that LeGrier changed during his sophomore year. "He wasn't violent," she explained. "He would just have some outbursts of anger when he kind of didn't get his way sometimes." White said that LeGrier didn't always like how his medication made him act and feel differently, but both she and LeGrier's parents echoed the sentiment that the engineering sophomore's reported mental health issues did not justify his death. White said that she and others plan to organize protests in downtown Chicago in response to LeGrier and Jones' deaths because "People are being killed and it's not right."
College friends remembered LeGrier as having been close to both of his parents, mentioning that he talked to his mother everyday. His hobbies included playing basketball, running track, listening to music, and playing spades.
Saturday morning's shootings came after weeks of protest following the release of a dash cam video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager named Laquan McDonald 16 times. Emanuel has said that he will not resign, but Chicago residents have been protesting his and Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez's alleged complicity in police brutality for a long time. The deaths of LeGrier and Jones have only intensified the scrutiny faced by the Chicago Police Department, and LeGrier's mother said she wants a personal apology from the mayor for what happened to her only son.