Should officer in fatal I-90 shooting return? Crowd packs Elgin meeting
For the first time in recent memory, an Elgin City Council meeting was packed to its 240-person capacity with more people in the hallway and the lobby of city hall, as residents spoke passionately Wednesday night about a fatal police shooting that took place nearly a year ago.
Mayor David Kaptain banged his gavel a few times asking the audience to be respectful during comments either in support of allowing a return to duty for Lt. Christian Jensen, who fatally shot Decynthia Clements of Elgin on March 12, 2018, or against it.
Resident Bill O'Neill said there are a lot of people who want to make the issue about race.
"This isn't about supporting a police officer. This is about supporting due process," he said.
Pastor Walter Blalark disagreed. "The African-American community would not support an African-American officer that would kill a lady and execute a lady like Jensen did."
Clements, 34, was killed after she led police on a chase and had an hourlong standoff with them along the Jane Addams Tollway. Police body camera video shows she started a fire inside her car and exited holding a knife. Jensen is on paid leave and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has yet to say if the shooting was justified.
If Jensen is cleared of wrongdoing, the city would conduct an internal investigation, which Police Chief Ana Lalley said would be done by an outside investigator.
Jensen's detractors, many wearing T-shirts with a "no" symbol over Jensen's name, have spoken at previous council meetings. This was the first time Jensen's supporters came as a large group, some wearing T-shirts saying "Support Jensen." Many police officers sat in the audience but did not speak publicly.
The crowd also included people who came to ask the city council to allow Legit Dogs and Ice to obtain a conditional use permit allowing it to host concerts, an issue expected to be debated later this month.
Attorney Tim O'Neil, who represents the Elgin police union, said city officials shouldn't make public comments about the fatal shooting before Foxx issues a decision. During a council meeting last month, Councilwoman Tish Powell called Clements' shooting "a violation of public trust" and Councilwoman Corey Dixon said Jensen should not come back to work in Elgin.
O'Neil said it's "a premature, thoughtless and hasty decision to judge and condemn Chris Jensen based upon opinion and conjecture."
Resident Traci O'Neal Ellis, an attorney, said Lalley and City Manager Rick Kozal should evaluate whether Jensen -- who as a lieutenant is part of management and not represented by a union -- exercised good judgment in pulling the trigger.
Bill O'Neill accused Powell of "trying to turn it into a racial (issue)" by contacting the nonprofit Cities United and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Powell said the NAACP contacted her and Cities United is a nonprofit that can help communities deal with police-involved shootings.
"My role as an elected official does not mean blind allegiance. It means critical accountability," she said.
Dixon said, "I'm here to serve my community and I don't care about your politics."
Shirley Sadjadi, an immigration attorney, said she had always used Elgin police "as an example of how policing should be done, especially in a minority-majority community like Elgin," but she now questions that.
Jensen used unnecessary lethal force, and bringing him back to duty "would only divide our community," she said.