As Chicago police officer Ella French lie mortally wounded on the ground, her body camera continued to roll and captured the suspect, gun still in his hand, stepping over her and her wounded partner as he fled the scene, according to a prosecutor.
A still image of the footage was obtained by Chicago ABC station WLS along with another chilling image of French in the last moments of her life standing at the driver’s side door of a car she and her two partners had pulled over just before shots rang out, police and prosecutors said.
French, 29, is the first Chicago police officer since 2018 killed in the line of duty and the city’s first female officer killed in the line of duty since 1988, officials said.
In the first seven months of 2021, 44 law enforcement officers nationwide were feloniously killed in the line of duty, a 41.9% increase from the same period in 2020, according to preliminary FBI data.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced on Tuesday the arrests of Monty Morgan, 21, and his brother, Eric Morgan, 19, in the slaying of French, who joined the police department in 2018 after previously working for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is the first step toward justice as we work to honor one fallen officer and her partner,” Brown said at a news conference.
Brown identified Monty Morgan as the alleged gunman who opened fire on French and her 39-year-old partner, who remains in critical condition with multiple bullet wounds, including one to the eye that lodge in his brain, according to court records filed in the case.
Monty Morgan has been charged with one count of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, one count of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and one count of aggravated use of a weapon by a felon.
Eric Morgan, who police said was driving the car French and her partners stopped, was charged with one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, one count of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and one count of obstruction of justice.
It was unclear if the Morgan brothers have attorneys. Eric Morgan made his first court appearance on Tuesday, while his brother, who was shot and wounded by police before being taken into custody, remains in a hospital, police said.
Brown also said the gun used in the shooting was traced to an Indiana straw buyer, who allegedly used false information on a federal form to purchase the weapon from a licensed gun dealer in Hammond, Indiana, on behalf of Eric Morgan.
The announcement came about a month after Brown assembled a team of 50 officers to target gun traffickers, straw buyers, unscrupulous licensed firearms dealers and anyone who facilitates the flow of illegal guns into the city of Chicago.
John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, identified Jamel Danzy, 29, of Hammond, Indiana, as the alleged straw buyer of the gun used to kill French.
Danzy was charged with conspiracy to violate federal firearm laws, including knowingly transferring and giving a firearm to an out-of-state resident, knowingly making a false written statement to acquire a firearm and knowingly disposing of a firearm to a convicted felon.
“Straw purchasers and firearm traffickers enable violence with deadly consequences,” Lausch said in a statement. “Fighting violent crime is a top priority in our office, and we are committed to holding accountable those who engage in illicit firearm transactions.”
Danzy appeared in federal court in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. It was unclear if he has retained a lawyer or is awaiting one to be appointed to him by the court.
The shooting unfolded in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood, where French and two other Chicago police officers assigned to the department’s Community Safety Team were patrolling as part of an effort to focus on high-crime areas.
Around 9 p.m., French and her two partners pulled over Eric Morgan on suspicion of driving a car with expired tags, according to police.
The police body camera image obtained by WLS shows French shining a flashlight into the vehicle as Eric Morgan sat in the driver’s seat next to a woman, who was not charged in the shooting.
Eric Morgan complied with French’s orders to get out of the car and hand over the keys, according to charging papers prosecutors filed in the case. Monty Morgan, sitting in the back seat, was allegedly not cooperative when he got out of the car holding a cellphone in one hand and a drink in the other, according to the documents.
According to court documents, Monty Morgan “began physically jerking his arms away from the Officers” and as they tried to get control of him, Eric Morgan allegedly bolted. A 30-year-old officer involved in the incident ran after Eric Morgan while French and her other partner dealt with Monty Morgan, according to the court records.
During a struggle, Monty Morgan apparently broke free and partially reentered the car, according to the documents.
French and her partner had their weapons holstered when Monty Morgan allegedly pulled a gun from his waistband and opened fire, according to the charging papers. French was hit in the back of the head, according to the documents.
Both officers fell to the ground, but their partner who chased after Eric Morgan returned to the scene when he heard shots and engaged in a gunfight allegedly with Monty Morgan, shooting the suspect in the abdomen and left arm, according to the court documents. A wounded Monty Morgan was seen allegedly giving the gun to his brother, who also returned to the scene and ran off with his brother, according to the documents.
Following a brief search, Monty Morgan was found lying on the ground near the shooting scene and his brother was later tracked down in the neighborhood and arrested. A .22-caliber handgun believed to have been used in the shooting was found in a backyard near where Eric Morgan was taken into custody, according to the court documents.
Risa Lanier, the chief deputy state’s attorney for Cook County, confirmed at a news conference that Monty Morgan was seen in body camera video stepping over the wounded officers.
“Defendant Monty Morgan is seen on video emerging from that passenger compartment holding a gun in his left hand. He is seen looking around while standing above those officers,” Lanier said. “He then moves off camera and after several moments he can be seen on … camera coming back into view and stepping over the bodies of those officers as they lay in the street.”
The shooting came as Chicago police have been dealing with escalating gun violence in the city. Chicago Police Department crime statistics show that as of Aug. 9 more than 2,100 people have been shot in the city this year, a 12% increase over the same time period as 2020. The city has also recorded 474 homicides this year compared to 464 this time last year, or a 2% increase.
On Wednesday, police said Morgan’s mother was arrested when she went to Christ Hospital in neighboring Oak Lawn on Tuesday and attempted to visit her son. An Oak Lawn police official told ABC News on Wednesday that the mother ended up scuffling with hospital security officers after allegedly getting onto the floor where her son is being treated.
Meanwhile, several vigils have been held for French, including one at the location where she and her partner were shot.
“She was courageous, spontaneous,” Chicago police officer Erica Hernandez, fighting tears, told WLS. “She was an amazing person to be around.”
Brown asked people to pray for French’s family and for the recovery of her partner, a married father of a young child, who is fighting for his life at a hospital.
“I’m asking Chicago to wrap their arms around our police officers today,” Brown said at Tuesday’s press conference, “and encourage them to continue their great work in protecting us all.”
He added that despite illegal gun recoveries being one of the most potentially dangerous aspects of policing, Chicago police have seized 7,536 guns this year, a 23% increase over the same period in 2020.
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