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Family sues over Will County police shooting that left man, grandfather dead

Family sues over Will County police shooting that left man, grandfather dead
Family sues over Will County police shooting that left man, grandfather dead 02:33

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The family of two men shot and killed by Will County Sheriff's deputies during a domestic dispute last year is suing not only the sheriff's office, but the hospital where the grandson in the shooting had previously been treated for mental illness. 

The deputies who shot the men have also been cleared of criminal charges and are back on the streets, the Task Force investigating the shooting said Friday.

Deputies shot both 21-year-old Jabbar Muhammad and his 70-year-old grandfather, Eldred Wells Sr., on Nov. 6, 2021, at their home in Joliet Township while responding to a domestic disturbance call.  

Jabbar Muhammad and Eldred Wells Sr.
Jabbar Muhammad (left) and Eldred Wells Sr. Family Photos

According to two lawsuits filed on the men's behalf, when deputies arrived, they saw Jabbar holding a knife in his right hand, and Eldred standing a few feet away, unarmed. But rather than separating the two to protect Eldred, and "provide the best opportunity to de-escalate the domestic dispute," the lawsuits accuse deputies of agitating and yelling at Jabbar.

"When the increasing yelling and agitation became too much, Jabbar Muhammad lunged" at his grandfather, and the deputies shot both of them multiple times, killing them, the lawsuits state.

Eldred Wells Estate Lawsuit by Todd Feurer on Scribd

Attorneys for Jabbar's family also point the finger at Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital, where he had been treated for more than a week before the shooting, after a previous suicide attempt. 

According to the lawsuit filed by Jabbar's mother, Rhonda Wells, the hospital negligently released him on the day of the shooting "before it was safe to discharge him." 

Despite being diagnosed with psychosis, repeatedly refusing to take his medication, admitting "he wanted to kill people all the time," and telling doctors he had a bad temper and would have access to knives at the home he shared with his grandfather, Jabbar was released from the hospital just hours before the shooting, according to the lawsuit. 

"Silver Oaks Behavioral, LLC breached the standard of care by carelessly and negligently discharging Jabbar Muhammad on November 6, 2021 to a residential environment that was not safe for him given his clinical condition," the lawsuit states. 

Jabbar Muhammad Estate Lawsuit by Todd Feurer on Scribd

According to the lawsuit, that negligence directly resulted in Jabbar being susceptible to agitation and violence, becoming a risk to himself and others, and ultimately setting off the domestic dispute that resulted in his and his grandfather's death. The hospital has not commented on the lawsuit in response to CBS 2's requests. 

These accusations by the family, and details outlined in the lawsuits, are the latest developments in a police shooting that was shrouded in secrecy since it took place. The CBS 2 Investigators first reported in April how authorities never told the public that deputies had not only shot Jabbar, but also Eldred. 

Our investigation also exposed how the Will County Sheriff's Office denied the family multiple opportunities to see the video. It wasn't until after our first report and the family's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that officials finally agreed to privately show them the body camera footage late April. 

The family declined to comment on what the video shows after viewing the footage

Family wants answers after Will County deputies shot grandfather but didn't tell the public 07:24

Paramedic reports obtained by the family, and reviewed by CBS 2, detail a chaotic scene in the aftermath of the shooting. One report said when paramedics arrived, officers found Jabbar and Eldred "laying on the ground in a pool of blood, with two officers doing compressions on both patients." 

Another paramedic report said Jabbar had 15 gunshot wounds – three in the head and 12 in other parts of his body. Paramedics also found stab wounds to Eldred's neck and shoulder. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital. 

But there was something else in the reports the family didn't know until they got the patient care report for Eldred around a month after the incident. While paramedics reviewed Eldred's body, they noticed a gunshot wound to his back and to his left hand – information the Will-Grundy County Task Force, the agency investigating the incident, never disclosed in any of their public statements about the incident.

"Mr. Wells was shot multiple times, but the fatal bullet was through his back, and it struck and severed his aorta," said the family's attorney, Keenan Saulter.  

In addition, Jabbar struggled with mental illness and deputies had previously been called to his home, CBS 2 learned.

But the Task Force did not disclose that information to the public either. 

Multiple spokespeople at the time of CBS 2's initial reporting in April refused to explain why they chose to leave that information out of the official news release on the incident. 

In interviews with CBS 2, the family said officials left them in the dark until they were able to obtain the paramedic reports, which prevented them from getting closure.  

Rhonda Wells, Jabbar's mother and Eldred's daughter, said she and her family fought for months to see the video and other public documents to know the truth about what happened. But they faced repeated roadblocks from the agencies investigating the incident, including the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force. That's when the family came to CBS 2.

"I just want to know what happened. Why?" Wells asked in a previous interview. "Don't leave us just with our thoughts. Just let us know…we have nothing. We just want to know the facts." 

Sister of Eldred Wells Sr. recounts horror of losing brother, grandnephew 09:56

In a phone interview on Friday, Dan Jungles, Deputy Chief of Investigations with the Will County Sheriff's Office, said the agency wanted to publicly release the body camera footage sooner to show what happened, but the ongoing investigations into the shooting and advice from their attorneys prevented them from doing so. 

"We wanted to show this video publicly immediately," Jungles said. 

In interviews, the family of Eldred and Jabbar criticized Will County agencies for not sharing with the public that Eldred had also been shot and accused them of evading transparency. 

"That simply isn't the case," Jungles said, but acknowledged that the agency "probably should have" released information about the grandfather sooner. 

"We never intended to not be transparent," he said.

Department policy says a deputy who uses deadly force must be removed from the line of duty and placed on paid leave, pending an administrative review. On Friday, the Task Force said the criminal investigation into the three deputies who used force in shooting was closed on July 21 and the officers were cleared of any criminal charges. The task force also said the deputies are back on regular duty.

Jungles said officials won't release the names of the deputies who fired the shots until the internal inquiry is complete, which is separate from the criminal investigation into the officers.  But Jungles said two officers fired their weapons and another discharged his Taser during the incident. 

The internal investigation could be wrapped up in the next few weeks, he said.

Jungles declined to comment on the lawsuit recently filed by the family against the Sheriff's Office. 

CBS 2 also contacted Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital for comment on the lawsuit. 

While the Will County Sheriff's Office has a de-escalation policy outlining rules for when deputies can use force, the agency previously said it does not have a policy that explains how to respond to calls where a person is experiencing a mental health crisis.

A family member recalls a night of horror in Will County 02:21
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