CHICAGO (CBS) — Current and former residents of the West Englewood area reacted with shock and grief to the shooting that killed Chicago Police Officer Ella French over the weekend, and lamented the broader and longstanding crisis of gun violence in the area.
But they expressed relief at the fact that some neighbors stepped in to help find a suspect trying to escape.READ MORE: South Shore Woman Sees Police Activity After Shooting Leaves Man Dead, Only To Find Out It Was Her Own Beloved Brother
Yvette Smith now lives in the Ashburn community farther southwest, but used to live in West Englewood. She talked with CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini. Smith said people are not acknowledging the danger police officers face.
“There was nothing being put up for her in remembrance for what she’s done,” Smith said. “You don a uniform to come out here and put your life on the line, and nobody acknowledges that.”
Around 9 p.m. Saturday, 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.
Officer French was killed, and her male officer partner was left in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
The Community Safety Team to which French and her partner were assigned fights crime and specifically connects with the faith leaders and community groups. In talking with Smith, Savini noted that The Community Safety Team goes to the highest-crime areas in the city.
“Oh boy, and it’s sad that this area is now considered that. I grew up here. I grew up here, little girl, went to school here. I have very fond memories of this area,” Smith said. “It’s changed. The city has changed. Something has to change now. This right here – this one’s not sitting easy for me. It’s not. Doing the same thing over and over again – something’s got to stop.”
Smith said she grew up at 60th Street and Wolcott Avenue, and came back Monday to pay her respects to Officer French. She emphasized the dangers that police officers and other first responders face.
“I am very grateful for what they do every day. That’s not easy. I don’t care what nobody say. That’s not easy to get up every day – police officer, firefighter, whatever it is. You’re going out there and you don’t know if you might come home. You have children. You have family and you still go out there and do that,” she said. “That’s a bravery people don’t recognize.”
Smith said she was angry and hurt.
“I’m just hurt for her family. She was so young. You should be able to go to work and come back home,” she said. “Life happens. We know that. This was unnecessary. Totally stupid. It’s a shame, and I hope something gets done.”
But the fact that residents stepped in to help capture a suspect was one development that Smith was pleased to hear about.
Witnesses said one of the offenders got out of the car, southbound on Bell Avenue. He ran past a wooden fence and got to a chain linked fence, which witnesses said he hopped – only to be subdued just on this other side by neighbors who were having a barbecue at the time.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Patchy Frost Well Inland
Savini talked to one man who did not want to identified, who said he helped police capture the suspect. The man said suspect had a gun that slipped out of his hand as he tried to pistol-whip a good Samaritan.
That was when other neighbors at the barbecue came to the rescue and held the offender down until more police arrived, the man said.
“It makes you feel better that the neighborhood. People are starting to help, because it’s hard,” Smith said. “Some of these neighborhoods. you can’t call the police. They know you call the police, they retaliate against you. That’s why there’s a lot of silence and nobody snitches.”
Savini also talked with Lois Parker, who has lived in the West Englewood area for 26 years. She was present when the shooting happened Saturday night.
“I seen everything, but I didn’t stay out here because I’m fearful of guns, so I just went back in the house,” Parker said.
She said she saw “all the police cars sitting out here. Everything was just blocked off, police and everything.”
Parker was in bed when the commotion began and did not know what was going on. But then she got a call.
“Someone called me and said: ‘There’s a shooting around your house. Are you OK?’ and I’m like, “Yeah I’m in the bed,’” she said. “When I went to the front door, I saw all the action, but I just closed the door and went back to the back.”
Parker said officers knocked on her door and asked if she heard gunshots, which she did not.
She said her sons couldn’t even come home given the danger, and given that one of the three suspects was still at large at the time.
“This is a quiet street. This is a quiet area. Mostly seniors live on this block, so it’s a quiet neighborhood,” Parker said. “It makes me sad. I’m just fearful of people losing their children. She’s just 29 years old. She hasn’t even begun her life yet. I’m devastated. Everybody wants me to get out of here, but I’ve been here since ’95.”
Parker said she actually does plan to move soon. She is now working from home and plans to leave once she retires.
“I’ve been praying for them since it happened, and actually praying for the family that lost their loved one, because she left home not knowing she wasn’t going to come back,” she said. “My heart goes out to that family.”MORE NEWS: Constituent Says She And Others Were Kicked Out Virtual Meeting With Embattled Ald. Jim Gardiner, And Alderman Isn't Providing Answers
Two brothers, Emonte and Eric Morgan, have now been charged in the shooting.