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As Justice Department Opens Investigation, New Police Shootings In Chicago


We start the program in Chicago, where there has been another fatal police shooting. Police say they were responding to a call about a domestic dispute at a residence on the city's West Side. When the incident ended, a 19-year-old college student home for the holidays and a 55-year-old grandmother, who lived in the apartment downstairs were both shot by Chicago police. Both later died. Both victims were African-American, and the shootings come as Chicago is still reeling from the release of a video that showed a white police officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald's 16 times. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the Chicago police. With us to tell us more about all this is Linda Lutton from member station WBEZ. Linda, what do we know right now?

LINDA LUTTON, BYLINE: Well, Michel, we know that police were called to the home of 19-year-old engineering student Quintonio LeGrier early Saturday morning. They say they were called to a domestic dispute. There's been reports that Quintonio had a bat and was in an argument of some kind with his father. They say they were confronted by, quote, "a combative subject, resulting in the discharging of the officer's weapon." That's from a police statement. Quintonio LeGrier was pronounced dead at the hospital and so was 55-year-old mother of five and grandmother Bettie Jones. She lived downstairs from the LeGrier family and had just hosted Christmas dinner for her family. The police statement says Jones was, quote, "accidentally struck and tragically killed," so police admitting that was a mistake. The statement says the police department extends its deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends.

MARTIN: So the police department is acknowledging that shooting Jones was a mistake. What about the other - the young man?

LUTTON: Quintonio, there's really no statement yet on him or on the case. They are - they say that the Independent Police Review Authority will be looking into this.

MARTIN: What's been the reaction to all this today to this latest incident, which comes, as we said, in the wake of the scrutiny of the department over these earlier incidents?

LUTTON: Right. Today, there have been a series of press conferences and vigils at the home on the West Side. They've included activists, prominent pastors and attorneys and family members - basically everyone calling for justice and demanding answers in these cases and a change in police culture in Chicago, a culture that one lifelong friend of Bettie Jones today called shoot first and ask questions later. This is - I have a clip from Quintonio LeGrier's mother. Her name's Janet Cooksey. She spoke to reporters today in front of the home where her son was shot by police.


JANET COOKSEY: We called for help. The police are supposed to serve us and protect us, and yet they take the lives. What's wrong with that picture?

MARTIN: Does the young man's mother - Quintonio LeGrier's mother - does she agree that the son was combative?

LUTTON: No, she took issue with the police description of her son as combative. She says he was an honor student, has been an honor student since grammar school. He attended a selective high school here in Chicago. He was an engineering student at Northern Illinois University, so she disputes that. And, you know, there were a lot of questions today about why do police show up to poor African-American communities so ready to fire their guns?

MARTIN: That's Linda Lutton of member station WBEZ in Chicago. Thank you, Linda.

LUTTON: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.