DeKALB – Several of Northern Illinois University’s senior leaders attended the funeral services this past weekend for a student killed by Chicago police the day after Christmas.
Quintonio LeGrier, a 19-year-old NIU engineering student, was laid to rest Saturday following a two-hour-long funeral at New Mt. Pilgrim Church on Chicago’s West Side.
NIU President Doug Baker was accompanied by Lisa Freeman, the university’s executive vice president and provost to the service. He said he attended as a show of support for the family and because LeGrier was one of NIU’s own. A university spokesman said other NIU officials, including the new diversity chief Vernese Edgehill-Walden, attended the wake, held the day before.
Baker called LeGrier’s death “tragic.”
A GoFundMe social media campaign raised more than $15,000 to pay for the funeral. The governor’s wife, Diana Rauner, was among the contributors.
LeGrier, who was known among his family and friends as “Q,” was home on break when he was killed by police Dec. 26. A Chicago police officer responding to a domestic disturbance that day on Chicago’s West Side shot LeGrier and fatally wounded by accident a 55-year-old woman, Bettie Jones.
Officers “were confronted by a combative subject resulting in the discharging of the officer’s weapon,” Chicago Police Department officials said in written statement after LeGrier was shot.
Jacob Clayton and several members of NIU’s Black Male Initiative program sat in pews right in front of Baker and Freeman at the funeral. Clayton said the campus male mentoring organization was making headway with helping LeGrier deal with some of his issues.
Clayton, who is president of BMI, and other members said they knew the young man described Saturday as an inspirational leader and doting relative with high intellect who was “spoiled” by his foster mother, and who had what has been described as mental health issues.
“We understood that he had been through some things in the past, but he was getting it together,” Clayton said.
Police and court documents detail a rough 2015 for LeGrier in DeKalb. He had four brushes with the law, starting with a January arrest for retail theft. Months later in May, he picked up an aggravated battery charge for punching an NIU residence hall worker and shouting expletives at her after being asked to lower his voice while in a dining hall line.
LeGrier was out on bail at the time of his death for that incident. He would have been due back in court Jan. 25 to answer that and other charges.
Remarks by family and friends during the funeral told of how LeGrier was beset with complex familial circumstances, including not being raised by his biological parents.
High school friends who attended the funeral said they couldn’t believe “Q” was gone. Still, John Green, with whom LeGrier played basketball when he was home on summer and other NIU breaks, said he noticed differences in his friend.
“Over the summer, we noticed his demeanor changed at bit,” Green told the Daily Chronicle. “We reached out to him, but he said he was OK.”
When LeGrier returned to NIU from summer break, he picked up misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges by campus police.
But he joined BMI, and Clayton said LeGrier was thriving in the program and had been officially accepted into it days before this past fall semester ended.
“He was on the road to success,” Clayton said. “We were helping him along the way, and he was stepping into his own.”
Demonstrations against gun violence and police brutality were held in Chicago in the days after his death. NIU’s dean of engineering was among the protesters, along with members of BMI. Clayton said a candlelight vigil and a forum on how minorities should interact with police will be held at NIU in the coming weeks. No dates for the events have been set.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Clayton passed by the coffin holding LeGrier’s remains and said a final goodbye to the young man he said his organization had embraced.
Statements made during the eulogy and public remarks touched on alleged police brutality, like that believed to have cut LeGrier’s life short. His death has become synonymous with cries for police sensitivity and accountability.
“With a measure of basic human consideration, Quintonio would be alive today,” the Rev. Marshall Hatch, pastor of the the New Mt. Pilgrim Church, said in the eulogy.