On Aug. 15, the police chief and mayor of Flossmoor, a suburb of Chicago, declared over the chants of protesters that the shooting and killing of Black 64-year-old grandmother Madeline Miller by Flossmoor police was justified and within department policy.
Miller was killed by Flossmoor police on July 10 while having a mental health crisis. Officers who arrived ordered her to exit the house she was inside. An officer shot her immediately after she left the door, and two seconds later, another officer shot her two more times.
Residents, family members and activists have attended each village board meeting since the killing of Miller, demanding that the board discuss reforms to the police to prevent future killings and name the officers who shot Miller. Chants erupted and the board ended the Aug. 1 meeting when Mayor Michelle Nelson refused to extend the public comment section to allow everyone present to speak.
In the rally before the meeting on Aug. 15, local resident and community psychologist Dr. La’Shawn Littrice led chants demanding an end to racist policing and stated, “If Madeline was a white woman, we know she would have survived.”
Struggle in the meeting room
At the meeting, the agenda was changed so that public comment came at the end of the meeting. This was a move to dissuade protest and ensure village affairs could proceed without disruption. The move was so abrupt that the official Flossmoor website hosted two different versions of the agenda with two different times for public comment.
When the mayor proceeded with the version of the agenda that placed public comment at the end of the meeting, chants of “Let them speak” erupted and the board took a recess and exited the room. After the crowd began demanding “Come back out,” the board did return and quickly rushed through the agenda in minutes so Flossmoor Police Chief Tod Kamleiter could give a statement saying, “Our support is with the officers who were faced with making a difficult, but necessary decision to use force.”
Nelson and the Village Board of Trustees supported the chief’s statement, saying they “support the officers and emergency personnel who responded to that dangerous call.”
When chants began again shaming the police chief and board for concealing the identity of the police officers who killed Miller and supporting the decision to kill her, seven people were escorted out of the meeting by police.
Public demands justice
Afterwards, the family of Miller and their supporters were for the first time allowed extra time to address the board. Miller’s funeral took place just two days earlier, but the family was still determined to show up.
Jacqueline Campbell, a sister of Miller, declared with passion after hearing the officials’ excuses, “My sister did not deserve to die! I am angry, I am very angry … Say my sister’s name with respect! Madeline Miller!”
“This is an atrocity that happened here, and we don’t seem to understand the gravity of this or we just want to gloss over it,” local resident and teacher Penny Lee-Cox said to the board. She discussed the trauma children face as result of police terror. “I see it in school everyday. Everytime there is a shooting that happens with a police officer, they ask me, ‘Am I next?’ What type of a society do we live in that we allow our children to continue to see this?”
Flossmoor police statement twists facts
Kamleiter claimed that the “two officers responded in accordance with the Flossmoor Police Department’s use of force policy, given the immediate danger in the home and the brandishing of a deadly weapon.” Body-camera footage released shows Miller outside of the home when she was shot.
Miller’s possession of a knife is cited as justification by Flossmoor for the shooting, stating that she had a “deadly weapon.” However, not even a week before she was killed, police in nearby Highland Park successfully arrested mass shooter Robert Crimo III, a white man who had killed seven people and wounded more than 30 by shooting into a July 4th parade. Police say that Crimo had a gun in the car he was taken out of when he was arrested.
Finally, the names of the police officers who shot Miller are being allegedly withheld because of “this incident being an active Illinois State Police Investigation.” In 2019, after the shooting of Jemel Roberson by Midlothian police officer Ian Covey, the ISP argued in court that the decision to name officers involved in shootings was the decision of the municipality that employs the officer even when an investigation is ongoing by ISP.
Kamleiter is correct when he says village officials are “confident the independent investigation will confirm our beliefs.” ISP investigations are allegedly independent, but no officer in the Chicago suburbs where ISP investigates police shootings has been disciplined, fired or charged after a shooting in recent memory. Justice for Madeline Miller will not come from the toothless structures that allegedly oversee suburban Chicago police departments. Only a determined and persistent mass struggle will force the changes needed in Flossmoor and hold the cops who killed Miller responsible for their actions.
Feature photo: Protesters outside the Flossmoor Village Hall before the Village Board meeting on Aug. 15, 2022. Liberation photo