POLITICS

Chicago Mayor Cuts Short Vacation After Latest Police Shooting

Rahm Emanuel was with his family in Cuba.

CHICAGO, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Monday he was cutting short his family vacation in Cuba to address the fatal shooting of two more black residents by a city police department already under federal investigation over its use of deadly force.

Critics said Emanuel was due to return from vacation anyway, and one Illinois lawmaker, who is trying to pass a law that would allow voters to recall a mayor in the state, questioned his credibility. The mayor's office declined to say when Emanuel had originally planned to return.

Protests calling for the resignation of Emanuel - mayor of the third largest U.S. city - began in November after the release of a video showing a fatal police shooting of a black teen that belied the official police account that he had lunged at police with a knife.

In the first fatal Chicago police shootings since that video was released, Bettie Jones, 55, and college student Quintonio LeGrier, 19, were both killed early on Saturday. Police said Jones was killed by accident during the altercation with LeGrier.

A fresh protest on police issues, and to call for Rahm to resign, is planned at City Hall on Thursday.

Illinois state Representative La Shawn Ford, who is pushing legislation to permit a mayoral recall, asked why City Hall was not making clear details of Emanuel's itinerary. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the trip was supposed to be 10 days, ending on Tuesday.

"We're talking about trust and believability," said Ford, a Chicago Democrat. "You don't want to pretend you cut your trip short if you were scheduled to be back anyway."

Emanuel's spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said he was set to arrive in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. She said he left for Cuba on Dec. 18, but did not respond to questions about when he had planned to return.

"He is cutting his family trip short so that he can continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department," she said.

Ford said the main question now was how the mayor intends to rebuild trust between Chicago residents and what critics regard as a trigger-happy police force.

"He should be at every police district, meeting with every officer in this city and letting them know where he stands on brutality and misconduct by the police," said Ford.

A fresh protest on police issues, and to call for Rahm to resign, is planned at City Hall on Thursday.

Illinois state Representative La Shawn Ford, who is pushing legislation to permit a mayoral recall, asked why City Hall was not making clear details of Emanuel's itinerary. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the trip was supposed to be 10 days, ending on Tuesday.

"We're talking about trust and believability," said Ford, a Chicago Democrat. "You don't want to pretend you cut your trip short if you were scheduled to be back anyway."

Emanuel's spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said he was set to arrive in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. She said he left for Cuba on Dec. 18, but did not respond to questions about when he had planned to return.

"He is cutting his family trip short so that he can continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department," she said.

Ford said the main question now was how the mayor intends to rebuild trust between Chicago residents and what critics regard as a trigger-happy police force.

"He should be at every police district, meeting with every officer in this city and letting them know where he stands on brutality and misconduct by the police," said Ford.

SEEKING VIDEO

High-profile killings of black men by police officers since mid-2014 have triggered waves of protest across the country and fueled a civil rights movement under the name Black Lives Matter.

In the latest controversial development, a grand jury on Monday cleared two Cleveland police officers in the November 2014 fatal shooting of a black 12-year-old who was brandishing a toy gun in a park.

Regarding the latest Chicago shootings on Saturday, police said that LeGrier, the 19-year-old, was being combative, but have admitted that Jones, who lived on the first-floor of the building, was shot by accident and offered condolences.

LeGrier's family said he had mental health issues and that his father called the police early in the morning because his son had threatened him with a metal baseball bat.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Monday he did not know if there was video of the shooting.

Attorney Larry Rogers Jr., representing the family of Jones, the woman who was killed, said at a prayer vigil on Sunday that there may be a video from a house under construction across the street, and that police footage may exist.

Protests over the shooting of Laquan McDonald - the teenager killed in October 2014 in the recently released video - led to the resignation of the city's police chief and the start of a U.S. Department of Justice probe into whether the city's police use lethal force too often, especially against minorities.

Emanuel, previously U.S. President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, became Chicago's mayor in 2011 and was re-elected earlier this year in a run-off. He was already facing pressure over high crime and gang violence in parts of the city and had been criticized for closing 50 public schools in mostly minority areas.

(Additional reporting by Dave McKinney; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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