(CHICAGO) Video from the scene of a police-involved shooting in Mount Greenwood this weekend appears to show a man pointing a gun in the direction of police moments before he was fatally shot by an officer.
Chicago Police said they are analyzing a similar still taken from video footage shot at 111th and Troy. That’s where 25-year-old Joshua Beal of Indianapolis was killed Saturday afternoon after what authorities said was a road-rage incident involving a family that had just left a cemetery after burying a loved one.
But Britnie Nelson of Hickory Hills, a witness who videotaped the incident as it unfolded, insisted Beal didn’t point a weapon, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.
The still image does not resolve the confusion over what happened in the moments before Beal’s shooting. For example, police are still awaiting ballistics tests to determine if Beal’s weapon was fired or misfired. One family member said he never fired the weapon that he had a license to carry.
Investigators from the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police shootings, were interviewing several witnesses and are taking steps to authenticate the videos and images that had been circulated, according IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac.
Sissac added that it appears multiple guns were fired in the shooting.
“While it is still early in the investigation, we can confirm that early ballistic evidence suggests that multiple firearms were discharged. It is our hope that people will wait until all evidence is in before making any conclusions about what happened yesterday evening,” Sissac said.
It all unfolded after Beal and his family left the burial of a relative who had been murdered in Indianapolis, according to a woman who identified Beal as her cousin. Video taken at the scene shows the incident led to a heated melee in the middle of 111th — with police, firefighters and pedestrians scattered amid the traffic.
Police and witnesses, meanwhile, gave vastly different accounts of what happened:
Police said the incident began about 3 p.m. Saturday in the 3100 block of West 111th Street, when an off-duty Chicago firefighter began to argue with motorists in a funeral procession who were blocking a fire lane. Police said the argument became “verbal and physical.”
An off-duty police officer was in a barbershop and saw the fight. He went into the street and identified himself as a cop, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
That’s when a uniformed sergeant driving to work at the nearby Morgan Park police station stopped and got out of his vehicle. The sergeant also announced he was a cop, Guglielmi said. In an earlier news release, the department said the sergeant observed “a male with a firearm in his hand.”
Both the off-duty officer and the sergeant pulled their weapons and fired at a man holding a gun when he failed to drop the weapon, Guglielmi said.
It’s unclear whether one or both of them hit the man, he said.
“Police suspect the offender’s weapon was fired or misfired during the exchange, and we are testing it,” Guglielmi said.
Nelson also said the incident began at the firehouse, where a firefighter got into an argument with the mourners, who were already distraught.
She said they continued arguing at 111th and Troy when a man in a red shirt “comes out of nowhere,” announced that he was a police officer and started swinging his gun around. She said the man went around to the passenger side of the car Beal was in and opened fire on him.
Guglielmi said the off-duty officer was injured in the melee and was sent to a hospital for treatment. The sergeant was not seriously injured, he said.
“The officer(s) involved will be placed on routine administrative duties for a period of 30 days,” police said in a statement.
About 10 demonstrators calling for police accountability in Beal’s death returned Sunday afternoon to the scene of the shooting and were met by a jeering crowd of more than 200 people, including several dozen members of a pro-law enforcement motorcycle club.
Chants of “Indict. Convict. Send those killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell” were met by chants of “CPD!” and “Stop shooting cops!” as well as a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by motorcyclists in leather vests.
A line of Chicago Police Officers, many on bikes, formed around the small group of protesters who slammed the police department in a neighborhood filled with cops. Many from the crowd yelled at the demonstrators to “Go home!” A few waved signs reading “Support Law Enforcement. We won’t take your crap” and “We support CPD. Why are you here?”
A few hours later, members of the Black Lives Matter movement held a news conference in front of a South Side police station with members of the Beal family.
Beal’s sister, Cordney Boxley, asked: “Are we not important? Do our lives not matter? I thought racism was dead. But as I always stated, history repeats itself.”
When shown a still image of a man holding the gun at the scene of the shooting and asked to comment, Boxley said, “As far as that is concerned if you want to know anything legal about this case, you can contact our attorneys.”
“We don’t have any comment at this point,” said attorney Barry Spector, who is representing the Beal family and was reached late Sunday by phone.
Meanwhile, Democratic Cook County State’s Attorney candidate Kim Foxx said during a campaign stop that the question of whether the shooting was justified “will be worked out.” But she also added: “It’s deeply concerning.”
A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez did not return a call seeking comment. Beal’s autopsy revealed he suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.