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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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13 Comments

  1. The children left behind
    Yes it is tragic that these children are now fatherless… but why is it the officers fault? These officers did nothing but their jobs. They did what they are hired and trained to do. Mr. York attacked his landlord, then cornered the handyman, then refused to comply with the officers orders to drop his weapon, and then attacked them. What would you have them do? Not draw their weapons and ask him pretty please will he put down his knife while he stabs the handyman. He was drunk and probably high.

    Had Mr. York injured any citizen then the community would be up in arms about the police not doing their jobs. Not protecting the community.

    So, while yes it is tragic that these children are fatherless. Why don’t we look at the facts from another prospective. What kind of example was Mr. York setting for his children? Yes it is hard to get a job in this economy, but instead of pounding pavement looking for one he was drunk and high. Are alcohol and drugs a positive example? I don’t think so. How are the children being helped by being dragged to a community meeting where this tragedy is just being rehashed over and over again? How is that healing for them? It isn’t. Instead of teaching the children that the police are not bad people, that while this was horrible and tragic they were doing a job. These poor children are being taught that the police are bad people and will hurt them. How is appropriate?

    Is it possible that time and energy would be better served focusing on empowering individuals on taking back our streets? Protecting our community from gangs and drugs? Teaching our children that the police are our friends and are here to help us? Hmmmmmm….

    The police are well trained in “handling threatening situations” as seen in this situation. It was appropriately handled, obviously since there were no other citizen injuries. Maybe Mr. Jean-Baptiste you should focus energy on a citizens watch program? Or something else positive and empowering. Try being supportive of your police department.

  2. Violence in Evanston
    You say,”Had Mr. York injured any citizen then the community would be up in arms about the police not doing their jobs. Not protecting the community.”

    I am not so sure about that.

    There has been tremendous violence in this community, and I have not seen much outrage. After a shooting between gangs or individuals, you hear very little from the community. In fact, frequently those who are victims and or witnesses refuse to give information to the police.

    Being a cop in Evanston isn’t like being a cop in Highland Park.

    1. Re: Violence in Evanston
      “Being a cop in Evanston isn’t like being a cop in Highland Park.”

      So very very true…

  3. Next time a drunk man is threatening someone with a knife —
    Don’t call the police. Let’s call Alderman Jean-Baptiste instead. He apparently has all the answers on how to keep that man from hurting anyone with just the alderman’s sage words. I wasn’t aware of his superpowers!

    We’ll make certain that Alderman Jean-Baptiste gets all of that “improv[ed] training for officers in handling threatening situations.” Then we’ll give him a gun and instruct him to intervene with a drunk man standing over another man on the floor, threatening the cowering man with a knife.

    Let’s see what Alderman Jean-Baptiste does when the man with the knife ignores his commands and advances on the alderman. As the alderman’s life flashes before his eyes, do you think that he will say “pretty, pretty please with sugar on top put down that naughty little knife” or will he pull the trigger?

    We’d learn once again that talk is cheap, especially when it comes to this alderman.

    1. Why do we have criminals here?
      Alderman Jean-Baptiste no doubt in his practice of Law defends some of the criminal element the lives in this town.

      He along with the other council members for years have given our tax dollars that is money to a social service agency that provides additional criminal defense to Evanston young adults. The Cook County public defender is not good enough for Evanston Criminals!

      In the past our police officers have opposed this practice. By the way the New Mayor also gives the group her own money through her foundation.

      The city for years has done little to correct the crime problem here, but given it lip service.

      1. I recognize the lion by his paw
        This looks like a Junad post. We haven’t heard from him in a while – I was wondering if he is OK.

  4. Mr. Jean-Baptiste
    My father has spent a great portion of his service work as an alderman working to improve community/police relations. He has organized meetings specifically for police and youth to be able to come together to improve communication and promote healing. In addition, he’s offered his thoughts on training, which police can always use more of. The bottom line here is the police should not have gone in with guns blazing, using 11 bullets to kill one man with a knife. What about shooting him in the leg? Or the hand that held the knife? Why shoot to kill? This behavior is the direct result of this mentality that black, brown, poor, working poor and low-income communities in general, are full of dispensable people. It speaks to a legacy of racism that will never be eliminated no matter what color our president is and all of your reactions ring loudly of a privileged existence. If you have problems with the way the Alderman are trying to address these matters, run for council or go to the meetings. Stop writing cowardly “Anonymous” slander.

    Truly,
    Aisha Jean-Baptiste

    1. Privileged existence?
      You may not like the truth when you hear it. But my comments do not come from a “privileged existence.” It is easy to paint with a broad brush when you do not appreciate the person’s comments.

      Have you ever been a police officer? Or are your comments about “shooting in the leg” straight from the movies and television? Ask any police officer and he or she will tell you that such options are ridiculous suggestions from people who don’t know anything about handling a gun.

      To correct you, the police did NOT walk into the situation with “guns blazing.” They were responding to calls from community members who were concerned about a dangerous situation.

      No one, no matter what color, is dispensable. That includes police officers who are defending us from drunk men with knives who are threatening innocents.

      You are accusing our police officers of executing a man simply because of the color of his skin. That is slander against the officers. Perhaps you need to read the report from the State Police before you make that statement again.

      I do not need to run for City Council to recognize a council member who does not support our police and the difficult job that they have. And I do attend City Council meetings and I know what I see there, too. I see a man with disdain on his face when police officers are given awards for valor. I was not the only one. Others wrote on these pages as well.

      I understand that he is your father and you want to defend him. But all of us have the right to determine whether the City is well served by those elected to the Council. And yes, he would have pulled the trigger if he was faced with the same situation or maybe you wouldn’t have a father right now.

    2. Racism does not excuse all sins
      Given the number of shots fired calls in the average week in Evanston,versus the number of times the Evanston Police actually discharge their weapons, I would say that the average black man has greater reason to fear other black men than the police. One young man was murdered over unreturned compact discs not long ago. This man may have been shot 11 times as you report, but just a little while later gang-bangers engaged in a shoot-out in the very same neighborhood.
      Black men are doing much more damage to other black men and their communities than even the most racist cop could possibly achieve. No amount of the partnerships between EPD and the community will change this sad fact, until the community decides to change it’s own attitudes.
      A giant first step would be to stop defending criminal and destructive behavior by excusing it with the arguments of racism.

    3. We never get the full story
      Do you have any knowledge of the background of this individual the police shot?

      That is what was his criminal past? Did he have other events were he attacked other people? Chasing people down the street with a knife and jumping on a person with a knife is hardly civil behavior.

      If this individual was attacking you what would you want the police to do?

      I would suspect you would have wanted him shot!

      Racism can always be used as a excuse to try to win a debate, bottom line, this individual’s actions got him killed.

    4. Ms. Jean-Baptiste
      I have to say, while I applaud your instinct to support your father, I am very uncomfortable with the content of your post. There is a review board whose job it is to make sure that the police acted correctly, and their findings support the police. What qualifications do you have to make a statement about what number of bullets is or is not appropriate?

      Are you saying there should be a separate set of standards for the communities you mention in your post? That attacking neighbors and police officers with a knife should recieve less police response if the perpetrator is a member of these communities? This is a very serious question: I know that neighbors in the 2nd and 5th Ward are working hard to eliminate crime and make their neighborhood safer. How do you propose that this be done if the police are held to a different standard than they are elsewhere in the City?

      Incidents like this one are tragic, of that there is no doubt. However, we must temper our compassion for this individual and this family with the safety of the community and of those who serve it. Police must respond to crime whether it is perpetrated by a beloved father, mother, son or daughter – and while this is a tragedy, the ultimate responsibility lies not with the police, but with the individual who made the choice to commit a crime.

    5. I have read your comments and
      I have read your comments and I admire your father. As far as police shooting someone in a limb in order to stop them that is very dangerous. A limb is much smaller and harder to hit with a bullett.

      What happens if you miss that arm or leg? That bullet will travel until it hits something hard enough to stop it. Could be you, could be a little kid in his living room, could be anyone.

      Police shoot at center mass to stop a threat. Research has proven that an aggressive person with a knife is lethal from a range of 21 feet and can close that gap and stab you in under a second. Thee Officers shooting a total of 11 times is not a lot. How many times would be enough or too much?

      Any shooting is a tragic event and we can not blame the officers for defending themselves. How about thanking them for saving the lives of the landlord and the man who was about to be stabbed?
      Matt

  5. Shoot to injure????
    Ms. Jean-Baptiste:

    I do not know your father, except via his long resume of community service for which he should be commended. I am not speaking of him in my post. I am also not a member of law enforcement. I am also not a member of any pro-gun or anti-gun organization.

    I do want to speak to the comments you made about shooting to injure. There is an unfortunate belief amongst people that this is a valid methodology. That belief couldn’t be further from the truth.

    All law enforcement officers receive a significant amount of training related to the proper handling of their weapon, inclusive of decision-making processes about when to use their weapon. These situations require split-second reactions, and the training forms the capability to function in that split second. It is not inherent in any person to perform in such a situation without training.

    It is difficult to understand how hard it is to shoot someone in the leg or the hand at any time, much less under physiological stress. What you see in the movies just isn’t what happens. Thus, officers are not taught to “shoot to injure”; They are taught to shoot center mass, which is the torso, because they consider themselves to be in life-threatening danger and have no other choice.

    There is a reason that this situation escalated the way it did. Someone called 911 about a situation they considered dangerous. The police arrived, ascertained it was dangerous, and acted according to their training. They asked him repeatedly to put down the knife. When Mr. York lunged at the police with the knife, they agian acted according to their training and fired their weapons to stop the threat and protect themselves and others at the scene.

    Would more training have changed what happened that night? I doubt it. But I believe any training we can provide our police is a good thing.

    It is incredibly tragic for all concerned. For Mr. York, his family, and the police officers involved. Why? because everyone will always be affected by that night. His children won’t know their father, his family won’t have him in their lives, and these police officers will have to live forever knowing they killed a man.

    Sincerely,
    Chris Beck

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