Could this fatal Chicago police shooting have been avoided?

WGN Investigates
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CHICAGO — WGN investigates a case of mistaken identity that led to the killing of a 21-year-old man.

Chicago police now acknowledge they had the wrong guy.

Curtis Stagger was not the suspect they were pursuing in a murder. But his encounter with police proved fatal, leading to questions about everyone’s actions that day.

Police were searching for a suspect, wanted in the death of Jaylin Ellzey. The 15-year-old Fenger Academy High School student was killed this year in a drive-by shooting.

Police had arrested the suspected triggerman.

They were looking for the driver when they encountered Stagger outside his home.

Police first said Stagger fired a gun. That story later changed to say he flashed a gun but didn’t fire. He was fatally wounded inside his car in the 8100 block of South Chappel Avenue.

Police said they found a semi-automatic pistol in the car.

But Stagger’s family doesn’t believe Curtis had a gun in his hand.

“You can see that gun is on the passenger side, kind of under the seat, by the passenger door,” said Michael Oppenheimer, an attorney representing Stagger’s family. “It makes no sense that this kid had a gun in his hand and after he shot it the gun would end up there.”

At the hospital, police checked Stagger’s fingerprints and learned he wasn’t the person they wanted in the Ellzey shooting. That person was Tyreece Stagger, Curtis’ younger brother.

Police took Tyreece Stagger into custody in mid-June, but he was not charged with a crime.

“After he was questioned, he was brought into court and the warrant was dismissed,” Oppenheimer said. “It looks like this could’ve been avoided.”

A Chicago police spokesman said Ellzey’s murder is “actively being investigated.”

“It’s my understanding the request to continue the case came from the detective as we are awaiting the processing of a specific piece of evidence that we would like included in the prosecutorial review,” he added.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability is reviewing the officer-involved shooting of Curtis Stagger. A spokesman said that review is ongoing.


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