No criminal charges by Cook County in fatal Elgin police shooting
The Cook County state's attorney's office will not file criminal charges against an Elgin police lieutenant who fatally shot a resident nearly a year ago, officials said Friday.
The state's attorney's office performed "a thorough review of the evidence" and deemed it "insufficient to support the filing of criminal charges in this case," according to a statement Friday. The case was referred for additional review to the office of the state appellate prosecutor, whose conclusion was the same, the statement said.
Police Chief Ana Lalley announced the city now will hire an outside firm to do an internal investigation of the actions of Lt. Christian Jensen, who fatally shot resident Decynthia Clements on March 12, 2018. The investigation will review whether Jensen and other officers violated any police department policy or procedure, and also will review the department's overall use of force policy and procedure, she said.
On Wednesday, the city council will examine a proposed contract with the firm Hillard Heintze of Chicago, which "will begin its work immediately and complete its review and report back to the city within approximately 60 days," Lalley said.
Illinois State Police, whose public integrity task force investigated the shooting, informed Lalley on Friday that no criminal charges would be filed by Cook County, Lalley said.
"We will make the Illinois State Police report publicly available on the city of Elgin's website, giving the community the opportunity to review the findings," she said. "At this time, we have not yet received the investigative report completed by the Illinois State Police. This report is expected to be delivered to the Elgin Police Department in the next two weeks."
Jensen, a 19-year-veteran, will remain on paid leave until the internal investigation is complete, Lalley said.
Clements was shot after she led police on a chase, then had an hourlong standoff with them along the Jane Addams Tollway. Police body camera video shows Clements started a fire inside her car. Jensen can be heard saying, "All right boys, this is going to be rough," before officers start moving closer to the car, exhorting Clements to drop a knife and get out.
Clements exited holding a knife and was shot by Jensen as another officer fired a Taser. Police said Clements had two knives, but only one was visible in the video.
After the shooting, Jensen said to fellow officers, "I'm good. I'm fully comfortable with what happened," the video shows. He also said, "We had to get her out of the car, or she was going to burn alive."
Clements' family has a federal lawsuit pending against the city that alleges her civil rights were violated.
Decynthia Clements' sister-in-law, Holly Clements, said the family is not surprised Jensen won't be criminally charged. "It's very rare officers get charged for anything," she said. "There's a system."
Holly Clements also said she respects the decision that Jensen will remain on leave during the internal investigation.
"I just don't think this community is ready to see him right now," she said. "He should never come back to this community. He should go to another community. I feel like the trust is gone. There's too much history with Jensen."
A message left for Jensen was not immediately returned.
The Elgin community has been roiled by divided sentiments about the shooting, with activists speaking numerous times before the city council, asking for Jensen to be fired. Jensen's supporters, who have spoken less in public, called for due process and waiting for Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's decision before casting judgment.
Lalley said Elgin police "will host a series of listening sessions where we encourage open dialogue with members of the community we so proudly serve."
A group of about 20 Elgin clergy and Councilman Corey Dixon publicly stated Jensen should not come back to work in Elgin.
Councilwoman Tish Powell said Friday she agrees. "I don't think he has the judgment or the temperament," she said.
Residents Bill O'Neill, who spoke in support of Jensen at the city council meeting last week, and Marcus Banner, who's been vocal about not letting Jensen return to work, said they, too, weren't surprised at the lack of criminal charges.
"There is no doubt that (Jensen) didn't go outside the standard operating procedures," O'Neill said. "It's something that's taught in every law enforcement academy ... is exactly the way he did it."
Banner disagreed, saying the system is designed to protect police officers. "The way (Jensen) performed his duties that night, he was negligent. If he feared for his life in that situation, he's a coward."
Lalley said she decided to keep Jensen on paid leave during the internal investigation "in consultation with Lt. Jensen and out of respect for the healing process in our community."
Jensen was hired in 1999 and promoted to sergeant in 2011 and to lieutenant in January 2017, when he was assigned to the gang crimes unit. He also served as a SWAT team leader and adviser to the Police Explorer program. He was named supervisor of the year in 2015 and received an "outstanding partner" award from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December 2017.
Jensen's disciplinary records include six complaints from residents, two involving excessive use of force in 2006 and 2007, and none of them sustained after internal review. All complaints in which he is named include other officers.
Jensen is related to an employee of Paddock Publications, which owns the Daily Herald.
The Cook County medical examiner's report states Clements had two gunshot wounds to the head and one to the chest, a nonfatal amount of carbon monoxide in her blood, Taser residue in her hair, burns to her calves, and combustion-related darkening on the back of her hands.
Clements had multiple abrasions and "incised wounds" measuring a half inch to four inches on her neck, according to the report. In the video, officers say, "She's got the knife to her neck," and, "She's stabbing herself," before they move toward the car.
Toxicology results determined Clements, who was 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 103 pounds, had levels of cocaine in her blood of 770 nanograms per milliliter, and benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine, at 3600 ng/mL. By comparison, patients admitted to the ER for cocaine-related complaints had an average 260 ng/mL of cocaine and 1280 ng/mL of benzoylecgonine, the report states.
The city council had a discussion in April, prompted by Powell, about the possibility of creating a civilian board that could investigate allegations of police misconduct and recommend discipline. A draft proposal is being examined and a public discussion is expected at some point soon, council members said.