Chicago Police Officer’s Death Can Be Honored By Tracing the Path That Led Her Killer to Shoot
I wish there was a way to roll a violent Chicago weekend backward, to rewind it like a film, to watch the bullets fly back into the guns that fired them and then, bit by bit, edit out the tragedies.
Chicago police Officer Ella French should be alive. Her partner should not be hospitalized in critical condition. If only we could reverse that moment Saturday night when bullets flew through the window of a vehicle they pulled over in West Englewood. Trim the scene, make it peaceful. Make it normal.
But Chicago is not normal. And to fix scenes like the one that ended French’s life at 29, we would have to rewind past the point most want to go. We would have to look at what led the people in that vehicle, and particularly the shooter, to that very moment, to the belief that opening fire on police officers, or on anyone, is something that could ever be considered, much less acted on. We would have to edit those past parts, fix the events that put them on a path to murder.
French and her partner were two of nearly 80 people shot in the city over the weekend. That number is not outstanding, a fact that’s tragic in and of itself, but the killing of a police officer carries added weight, as it should. Attacks on law enforcement are brazen and rattling to any sense of order. The shooting death of an officer, thankfully, is rare — the last Chicago cop shot to death was 28-year-old Samuel Jimenez in 2018.
But the level of violence that makes “nearly 80 people shot” seem average is what officers such as French and her partner face every day.
Superintendent David Brown spoke of the city’s entire force in the wake of French’s death: “They come to work willing to run toward danger, toward gunfire. And they’re willing to sacrifice their lives to save the lives of perfect strangers.”
A Tribune report on French quoted her brother, Andrew French, an Iraq War veteran, saying his sister supported finding ways to help people rather than simply locking them up.
“She was a humanitarian,” the brother said. “She believed in human rights. She was one of the officers on the force that thought they needed reform.”
And now she’s gone, and that can’t be fixed. Another 10 people died in the weekend violence. A 4-year-old girl was shot and wounded Friday night.
We’d like to edit those tragedies out, rewind just far enough to cut the horrible scenes and splice together a peaceful weekend in Chicago. But that wouldn’t fix anything. It would be — like every street corner prayer vigil and every new shock-and-awe proposal by every city leader and police superintendent we’ve had — a quick patch, an attempt to make the daily, weekly, monthly tragedies seem fixable.