Elgin, IL – The Elgin Police Department (EPD) has released bodycam and dashcam footage of the fatal officer-involved shooting of a woman who lunged towards officers with a knife as she charged out of her burning vehicle on Interstate 90 on Mar. 12 (video below).
EPD condensed over 30 hours of footage to create the 21-minute video, the Daily Herald reported.
“[The police] tried to talk her out and she wouldn’t come out,” Mayor David Kaptain told the Daily Herald. “What I saw was a very disturbed young woman who apparently was out of control.”
Officers initially attempted to make contact with 34-year-old Decynthia Clements at approximately 12:34 a.m., when her vehicle was spotted at the end of a gravel road, the Chicago Tribune reported.
She sped away as an officer approached. The officer briefly pursued her, but ultimately terminated the chase, according to WLS.
Soon thereafter, police noticed Clements’ vehicle traveling north on Route 25, then eastbound on Interstate 90, the Daily Herald reported.
It was unclear where Clements turned around, but the video showed her parked westbound in the far left emergency lane on Interstate 90. The vehicle was severely damaged.
An officer approached her disabled vehicle, and repeatedly asked her to get out of the car. Clements appeared to be quite agitated as she yelled at the officer through the vehicle’s closed driver’s side window.
“When I finish my cigarette, I will open the door,” she told one of the officers at one point, although most of her statements were inaudible through the glass.
Police observed a knife by her side, and said she had a history of suicidal thoughts. Police were also heard talking about a white powdery substance and drug paraphernalia they had seen inside the vehicle.
Clements attempted to drive away on several occasions, and was ultimately boxed in by several patrol vehicles.
Police negotiated with the barricaded woman for over an hour, before she inexplicably ignited a fire inside her car.
“Hey guys, is her vehicle starting on fire?” one officer was heard saying. “We’re going to have to extract her.”
With smoke filling the car, Clements rolled down several of the vehicle’s windows, but only slightly.
“She’s got the knife,” several officers began telling one another. “She’s got the knife to her neck!”
“Is she – is she stabbing herself?” one officer asked.
As smoke billowed from the vehicle, the officers said they could hear Clements “screaming” inside.
“We gotta get the window down,” one officer said.
The officers could be heard reviewing plan to extricate Clements as they moved towards the woman’s vehicle.
“Want me to smash the window?” one officer asked.
“Get the Taser set – get her out,” another said.
Suddenly, Clements threw the driver’s door open, and could be heard yelling and gagging.
The officers backed up slightly, and ordered her to show her hands, and to exit her vehicle, as flames shot out of the car’s interior.
“Put the knife down!” one officer repeatedly commanded.
But Clements scrambled from the vehicle, knife in hand.
In an instant, she lunged towards officers. The flash of a blade was clearly visible in the woman’s left hand.
Clements was simultaneously hit by a Taser, and by the officers’ gunfire, the Chicago Tribune reported.
She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“There are so many moving parts to this whole thing, this tragedy. But the one variable that changed the whole dynamic and caused it to end this way was the fire that she started in the car,” Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin told the Daily Herald. “The police officers are moving in not to arrest her, but to rescue her. She came at the police in two steps. It looked like she was making a move at the police officer.”
Elgin Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda said that the department wanted to release the video to help illustrate the EPD’s transparency about what had occurred, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“They’ve been more transparent than any organization I’ve heard about in this type of situation,” Elgin City Councilman Corey Dixon said. “They’ve made everything [recorded on video] available, and against the wishes of the Illinois State Police. That’s unheard of.”
Chief Swoboda displayed similar transparency on Mar. 13., when he was confronted by a crowd of protesters outside the police station.
“The idea that some people have that I will never be able to change, is that if you come at me with a knife, that I need to wrestle it away from you or I need to let you stab me in the chest because I wear a bullet proof vest,” Chief Swoboda told the agitated crowd. “That’s not how the real world works. You come at a police officer with a knife, you’re probably getting shot.”
The Clement family’s attorney, Antonio Romanucci, has declared that Clement’s death was “unjustified,” and that police should have used less-lethal tools and a crisis intervention team to save her life, according to the Daily Herald.
“This situation did not have to escalate to such a degree that cost a young woman her life,” Romanucci said. “As we move forward with this lawsuit, those responsible for Decynthia’s death must be held accountable.”
You can watch a shortened version of the EPD’s footage in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content: