CHICAGO — A Chicago police officer fatally shot a 24-year-old man who authorities said pulled a gun while running away, prompting questions from the man's family about why the encounter turned deadly.
Sgt. Rocco Alioto said the "armed confrontation" Wednesday evening on the city's South Side happened as officers conducted a narcotics investigation. He said the suspect fled on foot when officers approached. Alioto said in a statement that officers told the man to stop and he "produced a weapon," so the officer shot him.
The man, later identified as Maurice Granton, Jr., died of a gunshot wound to the back, the Cook County Medical Examiner's office said Thursday. The officer fired his weapon three times. Police will release video within 60 days.
An autopsy confirmed that Granton died from a gunshot wound to the back.
A candlelight vigil was held Thursday evening for Granton. About 100 people gathered at the scene of the shooting. They had a lot to say about the mayor and the police department.
“The Chicago Police Department is still out here killing young people, shooting them in the back while they’re trying to flee for their lives,” Kofi Ademola, an activist, said.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that officers involved in a narcotics investigation were watching the area Wednesday evening through one of a number of surveillance cameras mounted on poles throughout the city. They saw Granton taking part in what appeared to be an illegal drug transaction and dispatched officers to the scene.
The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating the shooting. The police department has not released the name or race of the officer involved in Wednesday night's shooting. Alioto said the officer has been placed on 30-day administrative leave in line with department.
COPA is reviewing body camera video from the shooting. The 24-year-old’s family said Granton was shot in the back while running away—another victim of what they call a corrupt police force.
“There’s a pattern and a history just like we saw from the DOJ report that CPD is a racist institution that continues to kill black and brown people with impunity,” Ademola said.
Police released video of Granton before the incident. He briefly puts his hand in his pocket, pulls a shiny object out and puts it back in again.
Guglielmi posted on Twitter a photograph of what he said was Granton's weapon found at the scene. He said that there is physical evidence that the gun had been fired. No officer was shot although a sergeant may have suffered a broken ankle during the confrontation.
Some people said they think the gun was planted by Chicago police.
“They’re preying on our young men. it has to stop,” Dorothy Holmes, mother of Ronald Johnson who was killed by police in 2014, said.
At the vigil, the family lit candles for Granton. They also yelled out the names of loved ones they have lost to gun violence in the streets of Chicago. They vowed to take their concerns about the shooting to the mayor.
The mayor's communications director dismissed WGN when a reporter requested a statement.
The shooting of Granton comes as police have faced intense scrutiny over allegations of excessive force involving black suspects. White officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald. He has pleaded not guilty. Release of a video of the shooting of McDonald a year after it happened prompted outrage and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
Chicago police released more details of the Wednesday shooting after Granton's sister, Joanna Varnado, suggested that the officer had used excessive force.
"Since when does running validate somebody getting shot?" she asked. The Chicago Tribune reported that Granton's family expressed doubts that the gun belonged to Granton, the father of two young daughters.
"I just want to know what the real story is," Varnado said. "If it was misconduct, I want justice. My brother was 24 years old. He loved his girls. That's all he lived for, was his kids."