Slain teen Quintonio LeGrier made three phone calls to 911 before a Chicago officer shot him and a 55-year-old neighbor in their apartment building in December.
Originally, law enforcement publicly acknowledged only one of the 19-year-old engineering student’s dials with another from his father. This new information is making the city reevaluate its police force training and attention towards mental health, reports the Chicago Tribune. And as the city’s first fatal police shooting since the video release of LaQuan McDonald’s death, the controversies surrounding Chicago law enforcement and Mayor Rahm Emanuel deepen.
“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,” his father, Antonio LeGrier, told CNN.
On-scene responders received the brunt of criticism for their inaction after the teen was shot. But new evidence points additional fingers within LeGrier’s first cries for aid. Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications turned over the first two phone calls on Monday (Jan. 25) to the Independent Police Review Authority, an organization that investigates police misconduct. For the OMEC, a spokeswoman told the tribune, the calls bring the dispatcher’s actions into question and cause city officials to find necessary punitive action.
Something occurring in his father’s West Garfield Park apartment on the morning after Christmas (Dec. 26) drew concern to LeGrier. He dialed 911 for the first time that day at 4:18 a.m., telling the dispatcher, “Someone’s ruining my life.” The phone call went like this: LeGrier keeps saying he needs an officer; and the dispatcher asks him questions about what is happening, what the scene is like, and what is his name. When LeGrier identified only himself as Q and then changed the subject, the dispatcher got frustrated:
“There’s an emergency. Can you send an officer?”
“Yeah as soon as you answer these questions. What’s your last name?”
“There’s an emergency!”
“Okay if you can’t answer the questions, I’m gonna hang up.”
“I need the police!”
“Terminating the call.”
In a second call at 4:20 a.m., LeGrier repeated, “Can you please send the police?” At 4:21 a.m., who LeGrier is speaking to got confusing for the dispatcher. The teen said, “I have an emergency. Someone’s threatening my life. They’re at the house.” As the conversation progress, there are pauses, noises, and mumbling. The teen assured that there were no weapons. Then LeGrier’s tone changed, and he used vulgarity. By the recording and the dispatcher’s reaction, it is unclear whether he was talking to the dispatcher or to another person in the background:
“Folk, stop f-cking playing with me.”
“Stop f-cking playing with me.”
“Are you talking to me or someone else cause my name ain’t ‘folk?”
The call ended there. This was the longest of three, and the one that was known prior to the Independent Police Review Authority’s release. That fact helps the argument of attorney Basileios J.Foutris, trusted by the LeGriers in a lawsuit against the city. Foutris told the New York Times, “You have a situation here—Quintonio is looking for help. He’s calling for police assistance. The first time he does that, he’s hung up on. The next two times, he’s met with rude, offensive, crude, inappropriate dispatchers who basically treat him like trash.” A statement by Office of Emergency Management and Communications noted that the protocol of 911 operators is to ask certain questions and “only terminate a call as a last resort.”
Antonio LeGrier added a fourth call from the house before a cop car pulled up. But this time, the teen was being reported as the threat. The Independent Police Review Authority added the father’s call in its public release. At 4:24 a.m., Antonio called 911 after feeling endangered by his son, whom he mentioned was armed with a baseball bat and forcing himself into Antonio’s bedroom. The father was trying to catch his breath as he spoke.
Officers approached the residence on West Erie Street in response to a domestic disturbance. Both father and son told dispatchers the address and specified in their calls that they lived in a house. The two LeGriers live in the second-floor apartment of a house. The first floor is another apartment owned by Bettie Jones, the second shooting victim. The entire residence shares the same front door. It is reported that Officer Robert Rialmo “accidently” shot Jones when the 55-year-old mother and activist opened the door. Quintonio LeGrier was shot six to seven times.
LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, does not live at the residence nor was at the scene at the time. But as she and her family grieve the loss, she told the Chicago Tribune, “You call the police, you try to get help and you lose a loved one.” Since the incident, Mayor Emanuel plans to provide training for emergency response teams in aiding patients of mental illness.