Protesters interrupt Q&A with Elgin police about Decynthia Clements shooting
About 100 protesters interrupted a question-and-answer session held by the Elgin Police Department so they could demand the firing of an officer who fatally shot a woman last year.
The session Tuesday evening at the Centre of Elgin was attended by about 30 people who sat in small groups and asked questions of the police chief, deputy chief and three commanders about the March 12, 2018, shooting of Decynthia Clements.
The protesters, led by activist Marcus Banner, marched in holding signs and chanting "Jensen has got to go," referring to Lt. Christian Jensen, who has been on paid leave since the shooting. Jensen shot Clements after he and three other officers moved to rescue her from her burning vehicle and she exited holding two knives.
"Don't send a message to the other officers that a paid vacation is waiting for them when they kill one of us," Banner said through a megaphone, garnering cheers and applause. The protesters left after about 20 minutes, and the session resumed.
"It's not easy to hear people screaming at you, yelling on bullhorns. It's not a comfortable feeling," Deputy Chief Colin Fleury said. "But they have a right to do that."
Jensen was cleared by the Cook County state's attorney's office, and a consultant hired by the city found that his use of deadly force complied with department policy. However, the consultant also found Jensen violated department policy when he turned off his body camera twice -- apparently while talking to superiors on the phone -- and when he didn't call an ambulance as soon as he realized Clements was suffering a serious mental health episode.
Now that the investigations are done, police can answer questions, Fleury said.
Fleury said calling an ambulance sooner doesn't mean paramedics would have intervened and somehow changed the course of events, because it's up to police to get the situation under control before paramedics step in.
Elgin resident M. Hummel asked several questions about Jensen's decision to pull the trigger. Another officer simultaneously fired a Taser, and a third officer attempted to pull his gun.
Cmdr. Adam Schuessler said officers learn at the police academy that knives are deadly weapons. Officers also assess the proximity of a threat when deciding how to respond, he said. "We don't say we shoot to kill. We stop the threat," he said.
Clements was shot twice in the head and once in the chest. Schuessler said officers are taught to aim at "center mass," and when Clements came out of her vehicle, her head was in that general direction. Jensen was holding a shield, but a knife can pass through that, Fleury added.
In the 16 months since the shooting, the department has consulted with police in Europe and New York City, bought new tools and implemented new response units, Schuessler pointed out.
"We value one person's life so much that we will spend as much as it takes so that a person, a family, doesn't have to go through this, and an officer doesn't have to go through this," Schuessler said.
A decision about whether Jensen will return to duty in Elgin will be announced soon, city officials said.
"If he does come back on the force," Cmdr. Jim Bisceglie said, "we are not done having these meetings. We are not done having these conversations. This is an incident that will affect our community for years."
South Elgin resident Sheryl York said she participated in the protest and not the question-and-answer session because it's about demanding action. And if Jensen is put back on the force, the department will send a message that the community is not valued, Elgin resident Dennis Hicks said.
Elgin police will host a "listening session" from 4 to 6 p.m. Aug. 24 at Elgin Community College, presumably after the decision is announced.