Elgin pastors: Officer who fatally shot woman on I-90 should not return to active duty
Nineteen pastors and clergy members in Elgin have signed a letter asking that police Lt. Christian Jensen, who fatally shot a woman in March, not return to active duty "for ethical, moral, and wisdom informed reasons."
"We share this out of a moral obligation as clergy to address this from both a justice perspective and from the basic desire to maintain a unified, peaceful, and safe Elgin," states the letter emailed Wednesday to Police Chief Ana Lalley, Mayor David Kaptain and members of the city council, and City Manager Rick Kozal.
The move comes a week after a group of residents and relatives of Decynthia Clements voiced the same sentiment to the city council.
The shooting remains under investigation.
The Rev. Mark Weinert of First Christian Church said the clergy who signed the letter represent "a wide spectrum speaking in one voice."
"There is diversity of clergy not only racially but ... denominationally, theologically, culturally," he said. "There is a real diversity of opinions, from some of my more progressive-leaning brothers and -sisters to some of my very conservative (ones)."
The others who signed the letter are the Rev. Nathaniel Edmond of Second Baptist Church; the Rev. Willie Tate of Progressive Baptist Church; the Rev. Dave Daubert and Deacon Marlene Daubert of Zion Lutheran Church; Pastor Jeorge Holmes; the Rev. John Halbert of St. James AME Church; the Rev. Carol Book of Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church; the Rev. Karen Schlack of First Presbyterian Church; the Rev. Katie Shaw Thompson of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren; the Rev. Richard T. Carlson of First United Methodist Church; Rabbi Jonathan Israel Kohn formerly of Congregation Kneseth Israel; the Rev. Lois Bucher and Rev. Michael H. Montgomery of First Congregational United Church of Christ; the Rev. Jeff Mikyska of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church; George Wadleigh, a Christian Science practitioner; the Rev. Andre Allen; and Apostle Larry Henderson and Prophet Tiffany Henderson of Kingdom Advancement Center.
Clements, 34, was fatally shot March 12 by Jensen after she had an hourlong standoff with police along the Jane Addams Tollway. Police body camera video shows Clements started a fire inside her car and exited holding a knife. Jensen has been on paid leave.
The investigation is in the hands of the Cook County state attorney's office, which will determine whether the shooting was justified. If Jensen is cleared of wrongdoing, the city would conduct an internal investigation -- possibly assigned to an independent investigator -- to determine whether he violated any police department policy or procedure.
City Manager Rick Kozal said late Wednesday he hadn't had an opportunity to review the letter. Attorneys James L. DeAno and Laura Lee Scarry -- who represent the city and Jensen in a lawsuit filed by Clements' family -- didn't respond to a request for comment.
Police Chief Ana Lalley said clergy members gave her the letter in person during a meeting Wednesday.
"I appreciate the ongoing conversations that I have had with the clergy group and with other members of our community over the past months as we wait for the conclusion of the ongoing investigation," she said. "I, along with my command staff, remain available and accessible for anyone who wishes to have conversations."
Weinert said there was no antagonism during the meeting.
"It was a respectful stance and posture all the way around," he said. "We don't want to be part of any kind of 'us vs. them' type of thing. We want to work together to see change and do what's right."
Mayor David Kaptain said he had no comment on the letter but plans to meet with clergy members Tuesday.
Thompson said a group of clergy members first met with former Police Chief Swoboda shortly after the shooting and continued meeting with Lalley, who was promoted in late June. They began discussing writing a formal letter last month, Thompson said.
"We understand it's a strong position to take," Thompson said. "But at the same time we want to express ... our respect and admiration for (the police department) and the position they are in."
The clergy members also said they appreciate the department's recent efforts to address mental health and crisis intervention and hope the independent investigation will make it less likely for such incidents to happen in the future.
Clements' family filed the federal civil rights lawsuit in June claiming excessive force. The defendants deny that Jensen shot Clements without reasonable cause or legal justification.