By Steven Graves, Jackie Kostek

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a day of mourning Sunday as police held and questioned three suspects in a shooting on the cusp of West Englewood and Chicago Lawn that left one Chicago police officer dead and another critically wounded.

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“Depsite the shock, grief pain and sorrow we feel this morning, our brothers and sisters in blue put the uniform on each and every day. They go to work risking everything to serve the people of Chicago,” Chicago Police Department Supt. David Brown said. “They’re willing to sacrifice their lives to save the lives of perfect strangers.”

A 29-year-old female officer was killed and a male officer was left in critical condition. Late Sunday, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the identity of the officer who was killed As Ella French.

Officer Ella French

Officer Ella French (Credit: Chicago Police)

Officers with the Community Safety Team conducted a traffic stop around 9 p.m. near 63rd Street and Bell Avenue in West Englewood. Three people were in the car — two men and a woman. During the traffic stop, someone in the vehicle opened fire on police, who returned fire.

CBS 2 has learned at the time of the shooting, one officer was standing near the driver side door, the other near the passenger side door.

Sources tell CBS 2 the male passenger shot both officers from the back seat of the car. Brown says the officers shot back, wounding the shooter.

As CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek reported, surveillance video from a nearby home shows an officer get out of his car and walk near the fence. Within 15 seconds, a flurry of officers arrive.

About a minute later, several officers take off down the sidewalk. Shortly after, an ambulance pulls up, a stretcher is brought to the fence, and someone appears to be loaded into the ambulance.

Police said the two men who were in the car were taken into custody Saturday night, including one who was shot and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center Oak Lawn in serious condition.

Police arrested the female suspect Sunday morning, Brown said.

Police said the suspect’s weapon was recovered.

“As soon as we get all of the offenders interviewed – and they are all cooperating – we’ll have confirmation on the role each person played,” Brown said.

When asked why officers initiated the traffic stop in the first place, Supt. Brown said they will rely on suspect interviews.

“What we believe is the interviews with the offender will reveal from their statements to us all of that information, so we’re going to withhold us guessing at why the stop happened and really listen for what the offenders are saying since they’re being interviewed now,” Brown said.

As CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported, Brown said the suspects were all cooperating.

All three suspects were still being interviewed late Sunday. Brown said the suspect who police believe fired the gun has “a criminal background for robbery” but said none of the offenders has an extensive criminal background.

Police did not release the reason for the traffic stop, saying more information would be revealed in the investigation.

“Much of what happened was caught on body camera. We do know that,” Brown said. We’ve reviewed the body cam, and we have more review to go.”

Officer French had been on the job since 2018. Her partner started in 2014.

Brown said much of what happened was caught on body camera video, but that video cannot be released yet. The Civilian Office of Police Accountability will hold an investigation.

Officer French was the fifth woman to die in the line of duty in Chicago Police history, and the first in 20 years.

The surviving officer remained in very critical condition Sunday night. He served about six years on the force.

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His family had no statement other than – “pray.”

The Community Safety Team to which French and her partner were assigned fights crime and specifically connects with the faith leaders and community groups.

So far in 2021, 38 CPD officers have been shot or shot at. Eleven of those officers were struck, and this officer is the first to die this year. In 2020 79 officers were shot at or shot. Brown said this year’s number is a 500% increase of officers shot at or shot compared with 2019.

Mayor Lightfoot declared a day of mourning and called for all flags to be flown at half staff.

She released a statement saying in part, “Please keep this officer in your prayers. Also keep the other officer who was shot in your prayers and his family and his friends and every day for the rest of his life, uplift him and support him. They will need our help as a city.”

Lightfoot also addressed concerns she called “another issue that has been lashing our city for too long.” Lightfoot said some believe the city does not do enough to help Chicago police or allow them to do their jobs while others believe police are not held accountable, “particularly in Black and brown neighborhoods,” and called on anyone making those arguments to “just stop.”

This was Lightfoot’s full statement:

I am here as Mayor to declare today an official day of mourning for our city. All city buildings will wave flags at half-staff and I call upon all other private buildings to do the same. Tragedy has stuck, again. We mourn the loss of a young officer, and as I did privately in the early morning hours, I want to publicly offer condolences to her mother, her brother, family and friends.

Please keep this officer in your prayers. Also keep the other officer who was shot in your prayers and his family and his friends and every day for the rest of his life, uplift him and support him. They will need our help as a city.

Two young people, doing what we ask, service over self, commitment, and dedication.

I also want to address another issue that has been lashing our city for too long.  There are some who say we do not do enough for the police and that we are handcuffing them from doing their jobs. There are others who say we do too much for the police and that we never hold them accountable for what they do, particularly in Black and brown neighborhoods.

All of this, I say, stop. Just stop. This constant strife is not what we need in this moment. Of course, we have to continue the journey to achieve constitutional and accountable policing. That cannot be in debate at this point.

But let me also reiterate what I have said before and what I know to be true: the police are not our enemies. They are human, just as we are. Flawed, just as we are, but also risking their lives every day for our safety and security. That reality became very real last night, in an emergency room, amongst tears and fears from the finest and the most courageous people I know. A mother lost her daughter last night. A brother his sister. A family forever shattered.

Another continues to keep vigil, at a hospital bed, sending up powerful prayers but no doubt fearing the worst. They are hurting, understandably so.

In moments like these, life gets boiled down to its basic essence. And so it will be for these two families.

For the rest of us. People of good will in this city, I urge you, we must come together. We must unite. We have a common enemy:  it’s the guns and the gangs. Eradicating both is complex, but we cannot let the size of the challenge deter us. We have to continue striking hard blows, every day. No gang member, no drug dealer, no gun dealer can ever have a moment of peace on any block, any neighborhood, not in our city.

And to get there, we must be united and single-minded in our determination to do just that.  The moment that we are in has been decades in the making.  But the manifestations are happening now, on my watch, on our watch. We have to be together in this moment, all of us, every block, every neighborhood. We have to reclaim the physical and moral territory. Shoulder to shoulder, fighting for each other, not against each other. We have a common enemy. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Today, as we reflect and mourn, let’s lift up the names of all of our victims of community violence. Say their names. Say their names and pray for the Lord to welcome the departed into a place where there is no more sorrow.

And also today, I ask this, when you see a police officer, say thank you. Say thank you. Devoted, dedicated officers reported for duty today, despite the pain of losing one of their own, and despite their fears and likely the fears of their families as they walk out the door to report for duty. These officers deserve to make it home safely today and every day. We owe them a debt of gratitude that we will never truly be able to truly repay. But let’s not forget to try, every day. say thank you to Chicago police officers that you see today. Be grateful for their sacrifice and their service on behalf of us all.

 

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) also paid tribute to the fallen officer from the floor of the Senate on Sunday. He reminded his colleagues in Washington about the very real risk to officers’ lives.

“Gun violence and gun death are daily threats in many neighborhoods – neighborhoods where it’s easier to find the gun than to find a job,” Durbin said. “Sadly, it’s increasingly a mortal threat to the Chicago Police officers who work in these neighborhoods.”

Durbin also called for tougher gun laws to reduce easy access to weapons.

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The Chicago Police Memorial Fund also offered condolences and help for the families of both Officer French and the officer still fighting for his life. The fund promised both financial and emotional support to help their families through this tough time.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff