Chicago police on Sunday confirmed the identity of an officer killed in the line of duty over the weekend, announcing that 29-year-old Ella French was shot to death in the city’s West Englewood neighborhood during a traffic stop.
The department had previously declined to identify French after a request from her mother. Since French was identified late Sunday afternoon, condolences have poured in from police departments around the country and details have surfaced about the young officer and who she was.
French joined the department in April 2018, according to police officials. She is the first Chicago police officer to be killed in the line of duty since officers Conrad Gary and Eduardo Marmalejo were struck and killed by a Metra train while responding to a call of shots fired in Dec. 2018.
French was a member of the department's Community Safety Team and had been on the force for nearly four years, officials said. Prior to joining CPD, she served as a corrections officer for the Cook County Sheriff's office.
"The officer who succumbed to her injuries was very young on the job, but incredibly enthusiastic to do the work," First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter said during an evening news conference Sunday.
French graduated from Community High School District 99 in January of 2009, the district said. She attended North High for her freshman year in the fall of 2005 and rejoined the school as a senior in the fall of 2008.
"District 99 mourns the loss of Ella, and sends condolences to her family and loved ones," the district said in a statement.
Misinformation had been spreading on social media over the weekend prior to French's identification, including claims from some who said French had recently returned from maternity leave and had a child. Chicago Police Supt. David Brown said such rumors were inaccurate, however.
"That's not accurate," Brown said Sunday. "I would just encourage you not to follow Twitter news."
French's brother, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, called her "the best sister" and described her as a "humanitarian" and the "epitome of a good Samaritan."
"My sister’s always been a person of integrity," Andrew French told the Tribune. "She’s always done the right thing even when nobody’s looking. She’s always believed in people and believed in doing the right thing... She’s always believed in taking care of people that can’t take care of themselves."
Her colleagues described her in similar words.
“She truly showed the community that she loved them and would do anything for them," said fellow officer and colleague Kenneth Griffin.
Griffin and French graduated just a few weeks apart, and spent the following years being there for each other.
“In 2019, I was actually stabbed on the job and she was one of the first people to call me to make sure I was OK," he said. "So, that was in May 2019. Fast forward now, just seeing this happened to her and I can’t pick up the phone to call to make sure she is OK, that’s one of the most hurtful feelings in the world.”
Griffin said he hasn't slept since he heard the news.
“I’ve been crying for two days straight now," he said. "And I’ll probably cry again after this call. And I’ll cry tonight. But tomorrow I’m going to go out here and I’m going to go to work and continue to show love to my community and make sure my community stays safe. That’s what she would want. She literally became a police officer to do those things. So, the best way to honor her is to do that."
Few details have been released on what exactly happened the night French was killed.
Police said three officers stopped a car with three people inside near 63rd Street and Bell, but details surrounding what prompted the traffic stop weren't immediately released.
When the officers approached the car, one of the vehicle’s occupants opened fire, according to authorities. French was shot in the head and her partner was also shot and remains in critical condition at a Chicago hospital.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled French’s death a homicide.
One of the suspects in the case, who police believe to be the gunman, was shot and injured during the confrontation, and was taken into custody. Another suspect was also taken into custody at the scene.
A third suspect was located and arrested early Sunday, according to Chicago police.
Charges are still pending, and interviews are still being conducted, according to authorities. Police said the incident was largely captured on bodycam video but it remained unclear if and when that footage would be released.
"We will #NeverForget the true bravery [Officer French] exemplified as she laid her life down to protect others," Chicago police tweeted Sunday. "Please hold her family, loved ones and fellow Chicago Police officers in your thoughts as we grieve the loss of this hero."