JOLIET, Ill. (SCS) – A family have filed a lawsuit over the release of body camera video and other documents as they try to figure out what really happened when a young man and his grandfather died in an incident involving the Will County Sheriff’s Police.
Sadie Mitchell and Rhonda Wells filed the lawsuit in Will County Circuit Court on Monday. Wells’ son and Mitchell’s great-nephew, Jabbar Muhammad, 21, was shot and killed by Will County Sheriff’s Police at his home in Joliet Township on November 6 last year. His grandfather and family patriarch, 70-year-old Eldred Wells Sr., also died.
The lawsuit said Muhammad was shot 10 or more times by sheriff’s deputies, and Wells Sr. was also shot multiple times by deputies — including once in the back. The Will County Coroner’s Office determined both of their deaths were homicides, according to the lawsuit.
But in a press release, the Will County Sheriff’s Office reported that Muhammad was shot and killed while stabbing his grandfather to death – while no mention was made that Wells Sr. had been shot by deputies.
The press release also did not mention that Muhammad had been shot multiple times in the face, the lawsuit said.
Sheriff’s deputies involved in the incident wore body cameras at the time, and the lawsuit said the cameras recorded the shooting and death of Muhammad and Wells Sr. A Will/Grundy Major Crimes Task Force investigator is investigating and said showing the body camera video to the family would not interfere with his investigation, the lawsuit said.
But five months after the incident, the family was not allowed to view the body camera video, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the family filed a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act seeking disclosure of the body camera videos in this case to both the family and the public. This request was refused.
The denial was issued despite the fact that the sheriff’s office is not investigating the men’s deaths, and the release of the body camera would still not interfere with any investigation, the lawsuit said.
The family also filed a FOIA request with the Will County Coroner’s office for autopsy reports and other documents, which was also denied.
The lawsuit accused the Will County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Mike Kelley of failure to produce documents and deliberate FOIA intent. The Coroner’s Office and Coroner Lori H. Summers have been charged with the same thing.
The lawsuit called for an order to release the records and also called for civil penalties. It was filed by attorney Ian M. Barney of Barney & Hourihane LLP.