Report: Officer who shot Decynthia Clements mostly followed Elgin police policy
Elgin police Lt. Chris Jensen was in compliance with department policy on use of deadly force when he fatally shot a resident armed with two knives last year, an independent consultant concluded in a report released Monday. But Jensen failed to follow protocol when no medical assistance was given to Decynthia Clements immediately after she was shot, the consultant said.
Jensen also turned off his body camera twice at the scene, but a department policy requiring officers to activate such equipment had not yet taken effect.
The independent professional standards investigation, completed by Hillard Heintze LLC, also determined Jensen should have called an ambulance as soon as he realized Clements was suffering a "serious mental episode." Clements, 34, was shot after she led police on a chase, then had a standoff with them on Interstate 90 that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes. Police body camera footage shows Clements started a fire inside her car before she exited the vehicle.
The city hired Hillard Heintze in February to evaluate the March 12, 2018, shooting. Consultants also examined the police department's policies and provided recommendations for improvement.
Both reports were posted Monday on the city's website at www.cityofelgin.org/HHReport. The firm will present its findings during a special meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. July 20 at city hall, 150 Dexter Court, Chief Ana Lalley said in a Facebook post.
"Lt. Jensen remains on paid administrative leave, and a decision will be communicated regarding his status sometime after the public presentation by Hillard Heintze," the post says.
Lalley did not respond to a request for additional comment.
After a separate investigative report by the Illinois State Police, released by the Cook County state's attorney's office following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Daily Herald, the state's attorney's office announced it would not pursue criminal charges against Jensen.
The Hillard Heintze report shows officer Matthew Joniak was the first to make contact with Clements; at 12:34 a.m. he investigated a suspicious vehicle at the end of Cedar Avenue, which he discovered was driven by Clements. He complied with the department's guidelines by conducting the investigation, though he did not activate his body camera, consultants say.
Suspecting that Clements might have been under the influence of drugs, Joniak returned to his squad car to request a police dog unit, at which point another officer arrived and Clements drove away, the report shows.
When Clements failed to stop at a stop sign, Joniak activated his lights but was told by his supervisor to end the pursuit once Clements drove onto the I-90 eastbound ramp. Hillard Heintze determined Joniak and his supervisor followed department policy in that situation.
Jensen, the shift commander and highest-ranking supervisor working at the time, responded about 1:03 a.m. to Clements' vehicle on I-90, the report says. He commented that she was "suffering from some type of mental episode or under the influence of drugs," according to the report, but he did not request an ambulance, violating the department's procedure.
Officers on the scene attempted to get Clements to leave her vehicle, but she did not comply, the consultants said. When her vehicle started on fire, she exited with a knife in each hand and started moving toward Jensen and the other officers. She was about three feet from Jensen, reports show.
At 2:07 a.m., officer Christopher Hall fired his Taser at Clements, and Jensen simultaneously shot her three times, according to the review. Both believed Clements was a threat to themselves and other officers and acted in an attempt to stop her from causing harm, the consultants say. Both uses of force were found to be compliant with department policy.
After Clements was shot, Jensen did not render medical assistance, nor did he direct other officers to do so, though he immediately called for an ambulance, the report says. Consultants said Jensen believed Clements was dead and that he told a dispatcher Clements was not breathing.
The Cook County medical examiner's office reported Clements was shot twice in the head and once in the chest. She was pronounced dead at 2:44 a.m. at Amita Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates.
Additionally, while on the scene, Jensen deactivated his body camera from 1:14 to 1:15 a.m. and then again from 1:19 to 1:50 a.m., according to the report. Sgt. Rob Hartman also responded and turned off his camera for about four minutes starting at 2:10 a.m.
A draft department policy required that officers always activate their body cameras during such an encounter, but those guidelines were not in effect yet, the report says.
The firm recommended the police department review policies related to force, vehicle operations and individuals in mental health distress at least every two years.