CHICAGO — Some continue to direct their anger toward Mayor Lori Lightfoot, following a shooting that left Chicago police officer Ella French dead and her partner critically wounded.
Lightfoot, who visited the hospital Saturday night, reportedly had tense encounters. She addressed the backlash Wednesday at a press conference.
“There were hundreds of officers who were there. I met and talked to many of them. And there was a lot of emotion from a range of the spectrum from total despair to anger and rage and everything in between,” Lightfoot said. “And that’s to be expected. This is a really hard loss.”
Officers said they are angry that the Chicago Police Department attempted to put off the final send-off ritual, the playing of bagpipes, for their fallen colleague. Many are pointing the finger at First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter but Lightfoot offered several explanations.
“With COVID protocols, the coroner has made a lot of new restrictions on what can and cannot happen at the morgue, is my understanding,” she said.
In a statement, however, a spokeswoman for the Medical Examiner’s Officer told WGN News there are no new protocols concerning bagpipes.
“Protocols for processions at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office have not changed since the pandemic began,” wrote Natalia Derevyanny. “First responders have always gathered in the office parking lot and dock to pay respects to fallen police officers and firefighters. Early Sunday morning, police officers gathered in the parking and dock area as usual and bagpipers accompanied the body of Officer Ella French through the parking lot to the dock. At no time did personnel from the Medical Examiner’s Office try to impede officers or bagpipers.”
“My understanding is there was no official honor guard that night. There was — I’m going to choose my words carefully — I think well-meaning, but not well-organized, group that wanted to hijack the procession, which would have meant that the family would have been delayed exponentially in getting to the morgue.”
First Deputy Eric Carter ordered the process to be sped up.
“Eric Carter is an incredible public servant. He’s a dedicated veteran,” Lightfoot said. “He takes his job very seriously but what people don’t like is he wasn’t part of the friends and family program.”
The painful fallout comes as Mayor Lightfoot reveals a $733 million budget shortfall.
According to the mayor, Chicago has lost $1.7 billion in revenues tied to the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions.
For now, the mayor says she hopes that the city will close the gap without raising property taxes.
The mayor tried to strike an optimistic tone about city finances calling her plan the city’s “recovery budget.” She adds that she will try to close the gap by using money from the American Rescue Plan and focus on making government more efficient.