$1.25 Million for Family of Unarmed Man Shot by Police

The City of Chicago will pay $1.25 million to the family of an unarmed man who was fatally shot by Chicago Police, under terms of a settlement approved today by the City Council Finance Committee.

Jamaal Moore, 23, was riding in a car which matched the description of a vehicle involved in an armed robbery early in the day December 15, 2012. After police gave chase, the car crashed near 55th and Ashland. A pursuing squad car slid on rain-slicked pavement and ran Moore over as he and the others exited the vehicle. But after he crawled from beneath the police cruiser and attempted to flee, one of the officers shot Moore twice.  

He was unarmed.

“That says to me they are so comfortable in what they do, that instead of trying to apprehend anyone, they’d rather shoot them,” said Moore’s mother, Gwendolyn Moore. “It says they have a license to kill.”

The officer who fired the fatal shots contended that she believed Moore had a gun. She and two colleagues were exonerated by the Independent Police Review Authority.  But at Monday’s Council hearing, city attorney Leslie Darling suggested squad car video did not support the officer’s version of events, that she had reason to fear for her life.

“The video shows her placing her weapon in her holster,” Darling said, “and then suddenly drawing the weapon and firing at Mr. Moore.”

Moore was hit in the left hip, and the left side of his back. But the city’s own narrative says that Moore was alive and struggling after the shooting.

“Following the shots, (police officer) Hackett again attempted to place Moore into handcuffs,” city lawyers said, in a motion filed in the civil case filed by Moore’s family. “But Moore continued to fight.  Hackett was only able to gain control of Moore by holding him in a ‘bear hug’.”

Cell phone video obtained Monday by NBC5 Investigates clearly shows police officers standing over the wounded Moore moments after the shooting.  But his mother noted that the video showed no particular sense of urgency for her son, who would be pronounced dead at St. Bernard Hospital.  Indeed, she said one of the officers hurled racial insults at her and other members of the family when they arrived.

“He says to me, ‘Huh huh, just another dead n****r,’” she said.

Twentieth Ward alderman Willie Cochran, a former police officer, argued that in the split seconds required for officers to make decisions, such episodes are never cut and dried.  And he noted that the “use of force” model of the State of Illinois permits firing on “fleeing felons.”

“Because someone is running away from you with a gun, your life is still in danger, if you’re pursuing them,” Cochran said, “because they can turn around, point the gun, and shoot.”

But Moore had no gun. And Cochran conceded there is ample reason to refer the case back to the Police Review Authority for another look, in light of the squad car video revelations.

“Deadly use of force is justified in incidents where officers’ lives are threatened,” Cochran said. “And in this case, there is some question whether or not that is the case.”

Victor Henderson, who represents Moore’s family, argued that the episode shows that the Chicago Police Department has still not put its house in order on the issue of deadly force.

“There’s no real independent investigation into any of these shootings,” Henderson said.  “Until the citizenry makes the elected officials become accountable for this kind of action, nothing is going to change.”

Moore’s mother said she still felt the officers should be held accountable. And that she would gladly surrender the settlement if it would turn back the clock.

“It will never replace my son,” she said. “If that money could give me back Jamaal, they could have it any day.”

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