Chicago man killed by police called 911 three times asking for help

Janet Cooksey (L), is embraced as she attends the funeral for her son Quintonio LeGrier in Chicago, Illinois, January 9, 2016. © Joshua Lott
Quintonio LeGrier made three calls to 911 emergency dispatchers in Illinois, pleading for officers to be sent to his father's home, according to newly released recordings. One dispatcher hung up on him. Chicago police shot LeGrier six times.

Audio recordings of the 911 calls, including a fourth by LeGrier's father, were released Monday by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police shootings in the city. Previously, Chicago authorities said only two 911 calls were made.

Early on the morning of December 26, LeGrier, 19, called 911 asking for police officers to come to the home on Chicago's West Side. He did not give his name or many details as to why he wanted a police presence, only saying he was being threatened and that an emergency was taking place. He and a neighbor, Bettie Jones, were fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Robert Rialmo minutes later. His father was shot in the chest but survived.

The shooting came amid rising tensions between city officials, police and Chicago residents, especially within communities of color. Shortly before LeGrier's killing, a Chicago police officer was charged with the murder of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times in 2014. Video of the shooting was released to the public over a year later, sparking widespread outrage and calls for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

LeGrier, a student at Northern Illinois University visiting his father while on winter break, first called 911 at 4:18 a.m., saying he needed an officer to come to the house. He only gave his first initial, "Q," when asked his name.

“Can you send an officer?” LeGrier asked.

“Yeah, when you answer the question,” the 911 operator said.

“There’s an emergency. Can you send an officer?” LeGrier said.

“As soon as you answer these questions. What’s your last name?” the operator responded.

“It’s an emergency,” LeGrier said, with urgency.

“OK, if you can’t answer the questions, I’m gonna hang up,” the operator said.

“I need the police!” LeGrier said.

The operator then said "terminating the call" after 1 minute, 27 seconds.

A911 caller does not have to provide a name to the dispatcher, according to Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

A second call was placed at 4:20 a.m., during which LeGrier again begged for a police officer, this time to a different 911 operator during a 41-second call. LeGrier again would not offer his name.

Police finally arrived at the home of Antonio LeGrier,  Quintonio's father, only after Quintonio's third 911 call and a fourth call, at 4:24 a.m., by Antonio, who told the dispatcher that Quintonio had "a baseball bat in his hand" and was trying to break his bedroom door.

The Chicago PD has said LeGrier was shot six times when he advanced on police while holding the bat. Jones, 55, a neighbor who lived below LeGrier's father, went to answer the shared front door of the building. She was shot once in the chest by a bullet fired through the door, which Chicago police described as an accident.

IPRA said Monday that it did not know of the two additional 911 calls until this month.

“During the course of this investigation, the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communication recently identified and provided IPRA with two additional 911 calls placed by Quintonio LeGrier prior to the incident,” a spokesman for IPRA said, according to the Sun-Times.

The family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city, alleging officer misconduct. Basileios J. Foutris, lawyer for LeGrier's father, said he "found the dispatchers’ conduct was disgusting," the Sun-Times reported.

“You have a situation here — Quintonio is looking for help,” said Foutris, as reported by the New York Times. “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.”

The dispatcher who fielded the first 911 call is being disciplined for not routing police to the scene when LeGrier said his life was being threatened, a violation of policy, Stratton said.

“Because the individual said his life was being threatened, police should have been dispatched for this call, which is why OEMC has begun disciplinary proceedings against the call taker. Per the collective bargaining agreement, the call taker will remain in service until the discipline process is complete,” she said, according to the Sun-Times.

She added: “Call-takers follow specific protocols and may only terminate a call as a last resort.”

Emanuel's office said the mayor did not know of the two additional 911 calls until Monday, the NY Times reported.

LeGrier experienced emotional issues in the weeks leading up to his death, his family has said.

“You call for help and you lose someone… That has to stop,” Legrier’s mother Janet Cooksey said. She told WLS-TV that her son was "having a mental situation” and sometimes would "get loud, but not violent."

LeGrier's shooting followed a round of protests against Chicago police brutality, with more and more demonstrators calling for Emanuel’s resignation and an investigation into the mayor's administration. Hundreds of people gathered on the streets of the city, claiming the police are killing civilians instead of protecting them.

Amid the protests, the Chicago PD's superintendent was forced to resign, and the mayor created a special police accountability task force to review officers’ conduct.