Will County finally shows grieving family body camera video from the moments deputies shot their loved ones
CHICAGO (CBS) -- After days of pressure, the Will County Sheriff's Office finally showed a grieving family body camera video from the moments deputies not only shot and killed their son, but also shot his grandfather.
This comes just one week after CBS 2 Investigators first uncovered the Sheriff's Office denied the family multiple opportunities to see the video. The CBS 2 investigation also brought to light how officials never told the family, or the public, that deputies shot the grandfather too.
The family's attorney, Ian Barney, said he and the family privately watched the video at the Sheriff's Office on Tuesday afternoon. Barney said neither he or the family will comment on what the video shows at this time.
"The family is not making any comment at this time, and they ask that they be given privacy as they process this tragedy and continue to grieve the loss of their loved ones," Barney said.
It's been more than five months since deputies shot both men multiple times on Nov. 6 at their home in Joliet Township. In a news release after the shooting, officials said they shot 21-year-old Jabbar Muhammad to stop him from stabbing his grandfather, 70-year-old Eldred Wells Sr.
But on April 11, CBS 2 Investigators reported how some details were shrouded in secrecy. For instance, the Sheriff's Office never publicly disclosed they shot Wells at all in the news release. He also died.
Multiple spokespeople have refused to explain why they chose to leave that information out. In interviews with CBS 2, the family said officials left them in the dark, 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.
"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."
Prior to CBS 2 Investigators' reporting, the Task Force, and the Will County State's Attorney's Office which is investigating the deputies involved, repeatedly refused to show the family the video. The Will County Coroner's Office also has not released the autopsy reports, which could show how Eldred died, and whether his cause of death was related to the stab wounds or the deputies' gunshots. The agencies said they wouldn't release or show the family the video because of the ongoing investigations.
But on April 13, just two days after CBS 2 Investigators aired its story and the family filed a public records lawsuit, the offices of the Sheriff and State's Attorney reversed their decisions. While officials maintained they would not release the video publicly yet, they said they would finally allow the family to view it privately.
"This is a really important update for the family," Barney said that day. "They have been waiting five months – more than five months now, actually – to see the body camera footage and to learn the facts of what actually happened to Jabbar and Eldred. They've gone through a lot of anguish over this shooting incident, they have struggled with the process of grieving their loved ones."
It could be a long time before the public sees the video. A spokesperson for the Task Force previously said officials will not release the clips until all investigations are complete.
When a Will County deputy uses deadly force, an outside agency – in this case, the Task Force – is required to investigate the case, according to Sheriff's Office policy. The State's Attorney's Office will also investigate the officers and whether charges should be filed. Then, the Sheriff's Office will begin its own internal investigation. A Task Force spokesman said, on average, their investigations into police shootings have taken more than a year in some cases.
Officials have not yet released the names of the deputies who were involved and fired the shots, or their employment statuses. 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.
You can review the Will County Sheriff's Office use of force policies below.
Will Co Sheriff's Policies by Todd Feurer on Scribd
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