Evanston Police Cmdr. Tom Guenther made a brief statement about the shootings Sunday evening, but declined to comment further due to an ongoing investigation by the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Unit. Stephen Blackman/The Daily Northwestern
An Evanston police officer shot and killed a man wielding a knife Sunday afternoon, but reports of five gunshots used by police led some area residents to question the department’s use of force.
The incident occurred after three Evanston Police Department officers responded to a landlord-tenant dispute in a house in the 1800 block of Church Street, said EPD Cmdr. Tom Guenther in a prepared statement.
The tenant advanced on the officers and stabbed one of them, Guenther said.
The officer sustained non-life threatening injuries, but went into surgery at a local hospital, Guenther said. The man with the knife sustained a fatal gunshot wound at about 4:30 p.m.
“The officers were forced to engage in deadly force to defend themselves,” he said.
Guenther did not mention the number of shots fired, but Quanaila Taylor, an 18-year-old who lives nearby, said she heard five gunshots.
The area, a little more than one mile from campus and a block and a half from Evanston Township High School, was blocked off for much of the night. The Evanston Police Department turned over the investigation to the Illinois State Public Integrity Unit, Guenther said. Members of the unit were unavailable for comment Sunday night.
Some residents said this was an example of the racial tension between police and residents in the Fifth Ward, one of two majority-minority districts in the city.
Charrisse Roberson, an Evanston resident and fashion designer, used to live in the building where the incident took place.
“This man had a family,” she said. “He had a knife; he did not have a gun. You could have tasered him. You could have billy-clubbed him. That’s what you have that stick for.”
Many bystanders said they felt if this had happened in another ward, the outcome would have been different.
“This is the west end; this is the bad side of town, and they know that,” Roberson said.
Louise Devin said she feels constant racial tension between the police and her neighbors.
“I live in an 80 percent black block and my son just stays inside now because he feels it too,” she said.”I do daycare, and now I have little two and three-year-olds who are prejudiced because they see so much activity.”
Devin said she has spoken to her alderman and the chief of police.
“It’s not a friendly community,” she said. “It wasn’t when I moved in, but it was supposed to get better. This community feels like it’s being targeted for so many things.”
The shooting did not affect a well-attended concert at Boocoo, a cultural center and cafe located at 1823 Church St. , said Eric Wilson, the center’s events and promotions manager.
As more police arrived on the scene, bystanders began to line both sides of the street. The residents knew the deceased as “Ricky,” and although none could recall his last name, many said they knew him from his business, CDN Painting and Drywall.
Some said they might take action.
“We should get the whole community and protest this senseless killing,” said resident Shavonne Johnson.
Steve Blackman and Brian Rosenthal contributed reporting.