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Police shooting: The children left behind

The woman whose twin five-year-olds were left fatherless when Evanston police fatally shot 32-year-old Desrick York last month brought the children to a 5th Ward community meeting Thursday night.


The woman whose twin five-year-olds were left fatherless when Evanston police fatally shot 32-year-old Desrick York last month brought the children to a 5th Ward community meeting Thursday night.

“My daughter says ‘Mommy, my heart hurts. Make it stop,'” Michelle Andrew told a group of about 40 people including Police Chief Richard Eddington. “My son now is scared of police, and he’s only five years old.”

“Now a lot of people are going to be scared to call you guys,” she added. “As for me, I don’t have any trust in the system any more.”

“Desrick was a loving man,” she said. He’d travel from job to job across the country to support his kids, “and you’ve made it seem like he’s a deadbeat father. Their father got treated worse than a dog. If he was a dog he would have gotten shot once, but the police shot him 11 times.”

“Nothing I can say tonight will take the pain away,” Eddington responded, repeating his expression of sorrow at what he described as “this horribly senseless chain of events.”

Eddington has said York had been unemployed for about six months and had been drinking heavily all weekend before the Sunday afternoon shooting at 1810 Church St. and may have been high on marijuana when he got into a dispute over money with his landlord.

“I must report to the group the facts and circumstances. I in no way meant to infer anything negative” about him, Eddington added, but “why this turned out the way it did has a lot to do with drugs and alcohol.”

Eddington says neighbors called police after they saw York chasing the landlord down the street with a knife in his hand.

York then returned to the apartment building, and, Eddington says, cornered a handyman who worked for the landlord in the building’s basement.

When police arrived they say they found the handyman on the floor trying to defend himself while York stood over him with the knife.

After police told him repeatedly to drop the knife, Eddington says, York instead lunged toward the officers.

By the time they started firing, they were backed against the wall and York was just an arm’s length away, the chief added.

Community residents at the meeting raised a variety of questions about police actions in the incident — whether they could have used a baton or other weapon to subdue York without firing their guns, or whether the officers should have entered the basement at all, or entered with their guns drawn.

Eddington insisted that given the situation of being confronted with an armed man who was threatening another person, officers had no choice but to draw their guns and enter the basement, and that once York refused to drop the knife and lunged toward them, the officers, to protect themselves, had no choice but to fire.

Other residents — concerned about continuing criminal activity in the neighborhood, including a shootout on Emerson Street early Thursday morning — said that neighbors themselves have to get more involved in efforts to prevent violence.

Lonnie Wilson of Community Builders said, “We’ve let the school system flunk our kids,” who then end up turning to crime. “It’s our own fault. We can’t expect the police department to solve all our problems.”

City Clerk Rodney Greene said, “We cannot depend on outsiders to do the job we need to do ourselves. We in the neighborhood have to control our neighborhoods, and if we allow prostitution and drugs and guns to come in, then it’s your fault and my fault.”

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said the entire City Council is concerned about the shooting incident.

He said he’s asked the chief about improving training for officers in handling threatening situations, and that he believes the recently formed citizens police advisory committee can review complaints about police behavior and help see that those complaints are appropriately addressed.

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