GARY, Ind. (CBS) — Hours after Jamel Danzy was released from federal custody on charges that he made a straw purchase to buy the gun later used to kill Chicago Police Officer Ella French, Danzy told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar he was “devastated” by the officer’s death, but declined to discuss most of the specifics.
Danzy, 29, is the alleged “straw purchaser” of the weapon that was used to fatally shoot Officer French and seriously wound her partner, who had pulled over a car in West Englewood on Saturday night.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Chilly Start To A Sunny Week
Prosecutors say Danzy bought the gun in March from a gun dealer in Hammond and then gave it to an Illinois resident who had a criminal record and could not legally purchase a weapon. Danzy filed paperwork with the dealer stating that the gun was for himself. But the gun ended up in the hands of Eric Morgan, one of two brothers now charged in the shooting that killed Officer French.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert ordered Danzy’s release from federal custody on Wednesday, citing the fact he has no prior criminal record, and that he has a job as a teacher’s aide in Merrillville, Indiana. Danzy was released on a $4,500 unsecured bond.
FULL INTERVIEW: CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar Talks With Jamel Danzy And His Brother, Roderic Hopkins
De Mar talked exclusively with Danzy and his brother, Roderic Hopkins, in Gary, Indiana late Wednesday night. Danzy was holding his young nephew as he talked with De Mar.
De Mar noted that charging documents indicated that Danzy admitted to purchasing the gun – and asked Danzy what he would say if some people might ask how he got caught up in such a situation.
“Just do right,” Danzy said. “Just do right by what the other person is supposed to be. Do the right thing.”
De Mar asked Danzy if he was in any way coerced or tricked into the situation.
Danzy’s answer was: “I mean, things happen. Things happen for the wrong reason. I really don’t want to talk more about it. It happened, so I’m out, and I’m happy that I’m out and everything – so I’m happy to see my family. I’m not a criminal. I’m a good person.”
Danzy dances online – and some of the videos he posts are in a classroom setting. He has been employed as a Head Start teacher’s aide in the Merrillville Community School Corporation since 2019. He has shared pictures of his master’s degree, and again, his criminal record is clean.
Speaking to De Mar, Danzy said: “I’m a good person, educated, went to school got two degrees – a bachelor’s and master’s – love kids, work with kids, love my nephew. I work hard every single day. I stay out of trouble.”
De Mar asked Danzy how he felt about the fact that the gun he is accused of buying was used to kill a Chicago Police officer and injure her partner.
Danzy replied: “I don’t even want to discuss it. I just feel truly bad about the situation and that’s it.”
He added that when he heard about the shooting that killed Officer French, he was “devastated.”
“I’m truly devastated still, because I wouldn’t want that to happen to anybody,” he said.
De Mar asked Danzy if Morgan gave him any indication why he wanted the gun back when prosecutors said Danzy purchased it on March 18 in Hammond, Indiana. Danzy replied, “No, not at all.”
When De Mar asked if Morgan had just asked him to buy the gun for him, Danzy added, “I mean, no comment. I don’t want to talk about that at all.”READ MORE: Man Fatally Shot In Roseland
Danzy added: “I’m a good, kindhearted person; a gentleman. I didn’t mean no harm to anybody. I’m just a hardworking man.”
Danzy’s brother, Roderic Hopkins, also spoke in his defense.
“My brother is not a criminal. He’s a very educated person,” Hopkins said. “My brother goes to work every day. He loves kids. He loves his family; loves his friends. He wouldn’t hurt nobody.”
Hopkins continued: “I’m always going to have my brother’s back, and I’m always going to have his side.”
With amazing speed, the case against Danzy traced where one of the guns used to shoot the officers came from – and the lapses that allowed it to get in the wrong hands.
Within 12 hours of the Saturday night shooting at 63rd Street and Bell Avenue, police had a thorough history of the weapon – and the flaws that they say put serial number AFBZ467 in the hands of Eric Morgan.
The complaint against Danzy included a photo of the weapon, a Glock Model 44, that investigators said was purchased and then used in the fatal shooting. Danzy also owned the car that was pulled over by French and her two partners, prosecutors said. During questioning at a restaurant in Munster, Indiana, where Danzy works, Danzy said he has been in a relationship with Morgan for three years and sometimes let Morgan drive the vehicle.
Morgan and his brother, Emonte, are both charged in the shooting – authorities said it was Emonte Morgan who fired the shots that killed French and wounded her partner. Bond was denied for both Morgan brothers in court on Tuesday.
Three years before Eric Morgan was charged with this weekend shooting, he was convicted of armed robbery near Madison, Wisconsin – complicating future access to guns.
So in March of this year, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Morgan leaned on a friend from Hammond – Danzy – to buy him a sport-utility vehicle and a weapon.
Both were used Saturday night, authorities say.
At a Hammond gun shop, Danzy filled out a firearms transaction record required by the Department of Justice.
His crime, federal authorities say, was committed when he answered question 21(a):
“Are you the actual buyer of the firearm?” That came with the words, “WARNING: You are not the actual buyer if you are acquiring the firearm(s) on behalf of another person.”
He checked yes.
Outside of the restaurant in Hammond where Danzy works, the feds questioned him Sunday afternoon. Federal authorities said in the back seat of a car, “Danzy admitted that he was lying.” on question 21(a).
That is the mechanism that made him what is known as a straw man – buying a weapon for someone who cannot.
Danzy told authorities that Morgan paid him to purchase the car, but it does not appear he was paid to buy that gun for him.
Danzy, the feds say, knew that Morgan could not buy a gun himself, and that Morgan drove from Chicago to Indiana to pick it up last March.MORE NEWS: Man Arrested In Lincoln Square Burglary
Police Supt. David Brown issued a statement Wednesday expressing outrage at Danzy’s release. It read in part: “This decision sets a dangerous precedent that straw purchasers like Danzy are not a danger to society, despite the fact that his alleged actions directly led to the murder of a Chicago Police Officer and left another in critical condition.”