Elgin activists say they will protest until police shooting video is released
A group of Elgin activists protested for the second consecutive day Wednesday, saying they plan to continue to do so every day in front of the police department until body camera video in the fatal shooting of Decynthia Clements is released.
"We don't want to lose momentum and we want to let them know this is a serious issue," co-organizer Corey Battles said.
About 30 people gathered in small groups, talking among themselves and with police officers in an atmosphere much more relaxed than that of a rally the previous day.
"Basically, we just want answers," said Tanisha Farr of Elgin, who said she was a friend of Clements'. "We want to know what was the reason (for the shooting)."
Police said Clements, 34, had a knife and was shot early Monday by Lt. Christian Jensen after an hourlong standoff that came after she fled from a traffic stop. Officers attempted to negotiate with her, then moved toward the vehicle to pull her out after "a fire was lit inside," Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said. She was shot after she exited the car, he said.
Authorities said she died of multiple gunshot wounds. Jensen, a 19-year-veteran of the department, is on administrative leave during the investigation.
On Tuesday, Swoboda and a few of the activists had loud verbal exchanges. On Wednesday, Swoboda and other officers milled about, listening to protesters and trying to answers questions in friendly conversation.
As for when the video will be released, Swoboda backed off from his previous statement that he wouldn't wait months to do that, saying the investigation is in the hands of the Illinois State Police.
South Elgin High School students Nadya Quezada and Amarrah Banner earlier in the day took part in a nationwide youth protest against gun violence, then joined the protest by the police department.
"This is crazy. I never thought something like this would happen in Elgin," Banner said.
Clements was black and Jensen is white. Some protesters said they believe race played a factor in the shooting, but the Rev. Bob Whitt, who is black and works as community police liaison, disagreed. "To me, it's not a race issue. It's an issue of right and wrong," he said, adding the investigation needs to play out.
City officials announced Wednesday they are planning to hold a "courageous community conversation" regarding the shooting, although no date was announced. The event is hosted by the human relations commission, which has hosted a few such proactive conversations centered on race-related issues in recent years.
Mayor David Kaptain said in a statement Wednesday that will be a chance for constructive dialogue.
"I am saddened by the unfortunate situation that occurred early Monday morning which resulted in the death of Ms. Clements," Kaptain said.
"There are still many questions unanswered, and I wish to remind all to please be patient. ... Our police department continues to be open and transparent, and additional information will be shared with the public as soon as possible. The community needs to heal and it's important we continue to support the friends and family of Ms. Clements, our police department and one another."
Battles said he and the others want an independent investigation, or for a local resident to be part of the investigation by state police. Once the video is released, the group will consult with the family to see "if they are comfortable with it," Battles said.
Battles said he and the other organizers want the protest to remain peaceful.
"We are not trying to turn this into a Ferguson situation or a riot. We are just trying to demand justice," he said.