After more than a year, Will County Sheriff releases body camera video from police shooting that killed grandfather, grandson
JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) -- The Will County Sheriff's Office released body camera video Monday showing the moments deputies shot and killed a grandfather and his grandson inside their Joliet Township home last year.
This comes after months of CBS 2's reporting about a lack of transparency with how the sheriff's office communicated what happened to the public, and their refusal to initially release the video or any police reports.
On Nov. 6, 2021, deputies responded to a call about an argument between 70-year-old Eldred Wells, Sr. and his 21-year-old grandson, Jabbar Muhammad. The caller, a relative, said Muhammad had a knife and was arguing with Wells.
According to records obtained by CBS 2 and interviews with family members, it appeared Muhammad was in the midst of a mental health crisis when deputies arrived that day. This was the second time in 10 days deputies were called to the home. Records show they responded to a suicide attempt by Muhammad on Oct. 27. He was admitted to the hospital and treated. He was released on Nov. 6, 2021 – just a few hours before the fatal incident.
Police said they attempted to de-escalate the situation. But when Muhammad stabbed Wells in the neck, police fired shots several times "in defense of Eldred's life," a statement from the task force investigating the incident said at the time.
But the statement left out a key detail – deputies shot and killed Wells too. CBS 2 was the first to uncover this fact in April of this year. An autopsy report shows Wells died of multiple gunshot wounds.
"This 70-year-old Black male, Eldred J. Wells, died of Multiple Gunshot Wounds. Multiple Stab and Incised Wounds were significant contributing factors to his death," the Will County Coroner's Office wrote in its opinion on March 1.
CBS 2 made a decision not to show the full videos released by the sheriff's office Monday due to their graphic and sensitive nature. In the video clip above, we show you some of the moments leading up to the shooting, but we stop the video before any shots are fired.
Sheriff's deputies are seen approaching the doorway to the home and announcing themselves. After entering, Muhammad and Wells are seen standing near each other. A deputy repeatedly orders Muhammad to put down the knife. Muhammad refuses. Approximately 33 seconds after the deputies first entered the home, Muhammad lunges toward his grandfather and stabs him. Deputies fire shots at Muhammad, and both he and his grandfather fall to the floor.
There are still many unanswered questions about what the video shows and how deputies responded. Family members of Wells and Muhammad sued the sheriff's office in October, accusing deputies of failing to separate the two before firing shots. The lawsuit also accuses the deputies of yelling at the scene and agitating Muhammad before he lunged at Wells with the knife.
While the video was officially released Monday, CBS 2 obtained the clips prior to that release. Our team is currently working to find independent experts in policing and mental health who can analyze the clips before we release more of the video, or report on it further.
Initially, the task force and the sheriff's office said they would not release the video until all investigations into the shooting were complete. Family members criticized that choice and accused officials of withholding information.
"I just want to know what happened. Why?" said Rhonda Wells, the mother of Muhammad and the daughter of Eldred Wells, 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."
After CBS 2 first reported about the shooting in April, Will County officials privately showed family members the video, but did not release it publicly until Monday. Deputy Chief Dan Jungles said the internal affairs investigation was complete and there were no findings of wrongdoing by the officers as of Monday afternoon. The deputies were also cleared of any criminal charges after an investigation by the Will County State's Attorney's Office.
In April, the sheriff's office told CBS 2 it did not have a policy outlining how to respond to someone in a mental health crisis. On Monday, Jungles provided a mental health response policy instituted in September of this year. He said the process for getting that policy approved began in June of 2020, before the shooting.
You can read that new policy below:
Menally Ill Policy by Adam Harrington on Scribd
The Will County Sheriff's office released the following statement Monday night:
"On 11/06/2021, at approximately 4:00 PM, members of the Will County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to 300 Middletree Road in Joliet Township for a domestic disturbance involving a grandfather and grandson, whereas the grandson was armed with a knife. Upon deputies arriving on scene they observed Jabbar Muhammad holding a knife in a threatening manner near his grandfather. The deputies ordered Jabbar numerous times to put the knife down, which he refused to do.
"As the grandfather, Eldred Wells, got closer to Jabbar Muhammad, deputies began to fear for Eldred's safety. It initially appeared to responding deputies that Jabbar was complying with deputies' commands as he began to crouch down with his hands up, acting as if he was going to place the knife on the ground. Without warning, Jabbar lunged at his grandfather with the knife, stabbing Eldred in the neck several times. Deputies fired their service weapons, at Jabbar Muhammad, in defense of Eldred's life. Jabbar Muhammad was shot several times by responding deputies. Both Jabbar and Eldred fell to the floor upon Jabbar being shot. After being shot numerous times, Jabbar continued to stab his grandfather as the two were laying on the floor. The deputies again, fired their service weapons multiple times in an attempt to stop Jabbar Muhammad's deadly actions. Deputies performed life saving measures on both Jabbar and Eldred Wells. Eldred Wells was transported to a local area hospital, where he was later pronounced deceased. Jabbar Muhammad died on scene as a result of his injuries. The Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force were summoned to the scene to investigate this incident under provisions set forth by the by the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act in regards to an Officer Involved Shooting incident.
"At the time of the incident, it was unknown by Will County Sheriff's Office personnel if Eldred Wells was struck by gunfire as a result of the deputies firing their service weapons. During the investigation, the Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force advised the Will County Sheriff's Office that Eldred Wells was struck by gunfire. In addition, the Will County Sheriff's Office learned the official cause of death of Eldred Wells upon completion of the Will County Coroner's Report.
"Upon completion of the Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force investigation, the case was handed over to the Will County States Attorney's Office for review on 12/14/2021. On 07/21/2022, the Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force along with the Will County Sheriff's Office was advised that no charges would be filed against the officers involved in this deadly use of force by the Will County States Attorney's Office. Upon completion of the criminal investigation, the Will County Sheriff's Office was tendered the reports done by the Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force in order to complete the internal affairs investigation for potential policy violations committed by the officers involved. That investigation was completed on 11/15/2022. That investigation concluded that the officers that used deadly force in this encounter were justified in their actions, and there were no policy violations associated with the actions of those officers.
"The Will County Sheriff's Office would like to extend our sincere condolences to all of the family members of the Wells and Muhammad families affected by this incident. As well our gratitude to the deputies of the Will County Sheriff's Office that responded to this incident. Those officers and their families also have to deal with the uncertainty and raw emotions associated with violent incidents such as this."
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