By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Chicago, IL – Law enforcement supporters were outraged on Monday night when a baseball fan holding a sign that read “RIP Officer Ella French” was escorted out of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs faced off with the Chicago White Sox less than 24 hours after the officer was murdered during a traffic stop, and the reasons for his ejection aren’t clear.
The fan’s eviction from the Cub’s stadium did not go unnoticed on Aug. 9, and pictures went viral of the man holding the sign in memory of 29-year-old Chicago Police Officer Ella French being escorted from the stands.
“So, someone holds up [a sign] in honor of a Chicago police officer shot and killed in the line of duty, and they’re escorted out of the stadium. But people can hold up signs, and players can wear shirts supporting #blacklivesmatter, and no one says a word,” former New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Bernard Kerik tweeted.
Officer French was shot at about 9:10 p.m. on Aug. 8 in the 6300-block of South Bell Avenue, according to WLS.
Investigators said there were three occupants inside the suspect vehicle – a female and two males, according to WBBM.
One officer was standing near the passenger’s side door of the suspect vehicle and another was standing near the driver’s side door when a male in the back seat opened fire on them, sources told the news outlet.
“Officer down,” an officer radioed around 9:10 p.m., according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I got an officer down,” a police dispatcher alerted. “Six three and Bell, officer down, officer down, shot twice, shot at police, officer down.”
An officer yelled out just before the dispatcher issued another directive, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Give me two ambulances, two ambulances needed for two officers down, two officers down … Get those officers wrapped up going to six three and Bell. I want a perimeter set up three blocks, north south, east, west.”
Officer French was murdered in the attack, and her 39-year-old partner was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition and remains hospitalized in the ICU, fighting for his life.
Sources told WLS he was shot three times.
One bullet lodged in the back of his head, a second exited his eye, and the third hit him in the shoulder, they said.
The six-year veteran of the department has a wife and a young son, WLS reported.
Officers returned fire, wounding the gunman, who was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in serious condition, WBBM reported.
The second male inside the suspect vehicle ran from the scene and scaled a fence at a nearby home, drawing the attention of area residents, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Three neighbors confronted the suspect near a backyard swing set.
The suspect allegedly hit one of the citizens during the encounter, at which point the civilian trio tackled him to the ground, the Chicago Tribune reported.
They held him down until police arrived moments later and took him into custody.
The next night, a fan with seats behind home base at Wrigley Field brought a sign to the game between the two hometown teams that said “RIP Officer Ella French.”
Officer French was the first female Chicago police officer to be killed in the line of duty in 33 years.
But social media posts from the game showed that security removed the Cubs fan with the sign about Officer French from the stadium.
So, someone holds up assign in honor of a Chicago police officer shot and killed in the line of duty, and they’re escorted out of the stadium. But people can hold up signs, and players can wear shirts supporting #blacklivesmatter, and no one says a word. pic.twitter.com/G72K5GgZTm
— Bernard B. Kerik (@BernardKerik) August 9, 2021
WTH. Disturbing that MLB would allow this gentleman to be escorted out pic.twitter.com/L9PMUlXQaW
— Dan Mack (@DanMack62) August 9, 2021
— DetectivePat (@DetectivePat) August 9, 2021
It’s important to note that there were many other signs in the stadium similar in size and structure to the ejected man’s sign, but they were not asked to leave.
Fans in the stadium who saw the man with the sign being escorted out stood and applauded his efforts to honor the fallen officer, according to witnesses.
At the @Cubs game tonight, a man had created a sign that read “RIP Officer Ella French.” As he lifted it up, everyone around started standing and clapping. That’s the kind of #Chicago I love to see ♥️
— Kelly Nash (@kellynashville) August 9, 2021
Locals pointed out the hypocrisy of the move, given that Chicago police officers are trusted to keep baseball players and their fans safe in the stadiums and suggested that instead of booting out someone carrying Officer French’s name on a sign, they should have formally honored her memory.
As it’s the #CrosstownClassic, it would have been a nice gesture by Chicago’s two teams to have a moment of silence for Officer Ella French before tonight’s @cubs vs. @whitesox game. Instead, no mention. How many CPD officers protect their fans every game?
— Dylan Gresik (@DylanGresik) August 9, 2021
R.I.P. Officer Ella French. I am infuriated that the MLB and Cubs would escort a man out of the game who was showing his support of a fallen officer. I could give a good f**** about baseball now. This is really bad times. pic.twitter.com/vS3gH0BscF
— fsualldaylong (@fsualldaylong1) August 9, 2021
More than one fan called out the Cubs for failing to acknowledge the officer at the start of the game.
It’s very disappointing that the #Cubs did not acknowledge #EllaFrench at the beginning of the game. What’s up with that? #crosstownclassic #ChicagoScanner #ChicagoPD #peace #GUNviolence #guncontrol #WhiteSox #ChicagoPoliceDepartment
— Daron Taylor (@darontaylor) August 9, 2021
Mark McCloskey, the St. Louis attorney and U.S. Senate candidate who was just pardoned by the Missouri governor for waving guns at protesters in front of his house, weighed in on what happened in the stadium.
“MLB kicked out a fan for holding up a ‘RIP Ella French’ sign at a Chicago Cubs game,” McCloskey tweeted. “They had no problem stamping “BLM” to the pitcher’s mound last year. Ella French died protecting the citizens of Chicago. Her life MATTERED, and this is how the Cubs treat her. Disgusting.”
MLB kicked out a fan for holding up a "RIP Ella French" sign at a Chicago Cubs game.
They had no problem stamping "BLM" to the pitcher's mound last year.
Ella French died protecting the citizens of Chicago.
Her life MATTERED, and this is how the Cubs treat her.
— Mark McCloskey (@mccloskeyusa) August 10, 2021
ESPN’S David Kaplan defended the move and said the man hadn’t been removed from the game because of his sign and said flags at the stadium had in fact been lowered in the fallen hero’s memory.
Something tells me that the #cubs trying to save face for throwing him out..
Seriously something wrong here when someone gets tossed for expressing his condolences for someone who was murdered.
Politics and Politicians sucks.#EllaFrench pic.twitter.com/4fs8vL0P6h
— Sports fan (@chibears99) August 10, 2021
But Kaplan’s followers clapped back, pointing out that the fan hadn’t assaulted anybody in the stands when he was asked to leave in full view of everyone.
“Something tells me that the #cubs trying to save face for throwing him out,” @chibears99 replied to the ESPN reporter’s tweet. “Seriously something wrong here when someone gets tossed for expressing his condolences for someone who was murdered. Politics and Politicians sucks.”
The Police Tribune reached out to the Chicago Cubs to find out why the fan was bounced from the stadium but had not received a comment at publication time.
UPDATE: The Police Tribune received a response from the Chicago Cubs on Thursday evening.
“The fan in question, physically and verbally assaulted several staff members and a fan, using anti-LGBT slurs during the game which had nothing to do with the sign or the message,” Chicago Cubs Senior Vice President of Communications Julian Green wrote in an email.
“The sign on its face paying tribute to Officer French would present no problem at Wrigley Field,” Green wrote. “In fact, we lowered all flags in honor of Officer French prior first pitch Monday night and was one of the first organizations/facilities in the city to do so. We also paid tribute to the officer with a message on the Marquee at the main entrance. Typically, messages would be shown on the Marquee in rotation, but we decided to pause all messages and keep the tribute up during the entire game: END OF WATCH: Officer Ella French, August 7, 2021 #neverforget.”
“The fan’s behavior was at issue and we are planning to pursue criminal charges,” Green concluded.