Fatal Officer Shooting Widens Rift Between Lightfoot and Police | Chicago News

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about Ella French’s murder at an independent press conference on Wednesday August 11, 2021 (WTTW News)

The rift between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department revealed by the fatal shooting of Officer Ella French widened on Wednesday, as the mayor defended the decision of the department’s second-most senior officer. interrupt a ritual in front of the medical examiner’s office intended to honor the fallen officer.

First Deputy Police Superintendent Eric Carter was right to cut off an honor guard and bagpipe salute that served as part of the Chicago Police Department’s mourning ritual when a colleague was killed in performing his duties, Lightfoot said.

“I support what he did,” Lightfoot said after detailing a projected budget deficit of $ 733 million in 2022.

Officers and President of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of the Police, John Cataranza, were enraged when Carter’s voice was heard on the scanner ordering French’s body to be taken directly inside the office of the Cook County Medical Examiner.

“We don’t have 20 minutes for this —,” Carter said, according to reports. “We don’t wait for the bagpipes. Go forward and bring the vehicle inside. Take it all the way inside. Do not stop.”

Carter was following rules designed to stop the spread of COVID-19 imposed by the Cook County medical examiner and wanted to make sure French’s family was not delayed, Lightfoot said.

French was shot and killed and his partner was seriously injured during a traffic stop in West Englewood on Saturday evening. Two Chicago men have been charged with murder in connection with the shooting and a third man faces federal charges for allegedly acting as a buyer of straw to purchase the gun used in the shooting.

“There was no official honor guard that night,” Lightfoot said. “There was – let me choose my words carefully – a well-meaning but not well-organized group that wanted to hijack the procession, which would have meant that the family would have been exponentially delayed to get to the morgue. ”

Chicago Police Officer Ella French (@TomAhernCPD / Twitter)Chicago Police Officer Ella French (@TomAhernCPD / Twitter)

“Given the new restrictions put in place by the new coroner, it wouldn’t have been fair to them,” Lightfoot said. “Eric Carter made the right choice. I support what he did. And I’m horrified that right now people are trying to savage him for some agenda or purpose. ”

Carter had been in charge after French’s death since Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown was in Dallas after his mother’s death.

However, a spokesperson for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wednesday it had not imposed any new rules on processions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“First responders have always gathered in the parking lot and office platform to pay tribute to fallen police and firefighters,” the statement said. “At no time did the forensic pathologist’s office attempt to obstruct the officers or the pipers.”

Lightfoot vehemently defended Carter as an “incredible public servant” and “devoted veteran” and lambasted the media for vilifying him.

“What people don’t like is that he wasn’t part of the friends and family program,” Lightfoot said. “He did his job and worked his way up the ranks and worked his tail and now he’s the first deputy.”

Lightfoot appeared to have trouble controlling her temper on Wednesday when asked about her exchange on Saturday night with the injured officer’s father, a retired Chicago police officer. He confronted the mayor and blamed her for his son’s serious injuries.

After this exchange, a group of officers turned their backs on the mayor.

In a statement released on Monday, the mayor’s office acknowledged that emotions were running high after French’s death.

“In a time of tragedy, emotions run high and this is to be expected,” the statement said. “The mayor spoke to a range of officers that tragic night and felt the overwhelming feeling was concern for their fallen colleagues.”

Lightfoot declined to discuss what happened during his exchange with the injured officer’s father. The injured officer has made progress in his recovery, she said.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Lightfoot said. “I’m not forcing my way anywhere. And it’s shocking, frankly, that you ask me that question. It is really doing a disservice as we find ourselves. ”

Lightfoot criticized reporters for shining the spotlight on the confrontation at the hospital.

“Come on. Leave me alone. What else are you going to squeeze out of the bottom of buddy’s barrel?” Lightfoot asked. “You’re better than that. You’re better than that. You’re better than that. .

During his 2022 Budget speech, Lightfoot called for an end to the deeply divisive and intensely personal debate over the appropriate role for the police in Chicago, saying he is doing nothing to address the fundamental issues facing Chicago.

“Stop,” Lightfoot said. “All of you. All of us. Stop.”

Chicagoans must stop using social media to spit hate, Lightfoot said.

“It’s a bigger question than what may have happened with 10 or 15 agents on Saturday night,” Lightfoot said. “Why do we think it’s okay for people to engage in such mean and unofficial talk orally or worse on social media and then get it repeated by the media as if it’s fact and true? The media play a very important role in our democracy. But you lose me when it’s a race to the bottom, and everything revolves around combat and everything revolves around conflict.

The growing rift between Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department comes as base officers consider approving an eight-year contract.

The department is also under increasing pressure to implement reforms ordered by a federal judge after a 2017 investigation found that the police department routinely violated the constitutional rights of blacks and Latin Americans in Chicago.

In addition, a new council will oversee the police service – a decision opposed by the police union and condemned as anti-police.

Lightfoot faces similar pressure from across the political spectrum, with progressive and socialist Chicago City Council members demanding that the police department’s budget be cut and its role in the city redesigned.

In her 2019 campaign for mayor, Lightfoot – a former federal prosecutor who headed the Chicago Police Board – pledged to reform the Chicago Police Department, while reducing crime across the city.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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