Death of alumna by gun of Chicago police officer prompts mourners to protest recent brutality

By Gus Bode

Nearly two weeks after the death of SIUC alumna LaTanya Haggerty, Maurice Haggerty said the loss of his baby sister has been traumatic for the family, considering the circumstances surrounding her death.

I was devastated and thought it couldn’t be happening, he said. It’s been like a bad dream you never wake up from.

LaTanya, 26 years old and a 1996 SIUC graduate, was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop June 4 after a Chicago police officer mistook Haggerty’s cell phone for a gun.

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At LaTanya’s funeral June 12, a group of her closest friends donned multi-colored scarves and blue and white flowers in her honor.

She was always wearing a scarf around her neck, said LaTrece Vines, one of LaTanya’s best friends. She had a scarf in every color and for every outfit.

Vines, who met LaTanya while at SIUC, said she misses the little things about their friendship and the day-to-day time she spent with LaTanya.

She loved to eat crab legs from Red Lobster, hot wings from Hooters, and she always liked to go shopping, Vines said. We had to get our hair done together every Saturday.

Maurice said LaTanya, a computer analyst for Prudential, had everything going for her:a good career, a supportive family and a wide circle of friends.

She was a good-hearted person, and she knew what she wanted out of life, Maurice said. She kept everybody in line.

Christopher Hicks, an SIUC graduate student in manufacturing systems from Chicago, met Haggerty in the fall of 1992 while living in University Park his freshman year.

She was a very open, popular and friendly person, he said. She showed me the ropes.

Hicks said he learned the news of LaTanya’s death at the day after she died at the wedding of a mutual friend, which LaTanya was supposed to attend.

When I was told, I was in disbelief, Hicks said. When I found out she was killed, it really hurt. I was shocked.

Hicks said the reality of LaTanya’s death became evident when he went to her wake a week later.

To see a young woman lying there, that brought me to tears, Hicks said. As I walked out of the funeral home, I started crying.

Vines said she could not fathom the notion her close friend had been shot and killed so quickly and for no explainable reason. She said she was crushed when she learned of LaTanya’s death.

I screamed and I cried, she said. That was my best friend.

Anyele Kwao, an SIUC graduate who befriended LaTanya at school, marched with hundreds of others Thursday afternoon in the streets of downtown Chicago. The crowd of more than 500 protested the actions of the police department concerning Haggerty’s death and the earlier death of Robert Russ, another unarmed driver shot by police.

It was broad daylight, Kwao said. How could you mistake a cell phone for a gun?

Maurice said when police officers overstep their boundaries and act irrationally, they should be held accountable for their mistakes.

I am angry at the way the situation was handled, Maurice said. We want justice. We want them to stand up for what they have done.

Haggerty’s family filed a lawsuit against the city of Chicago and intends to seek retribution for LaTanya’s death.

We want to try to stop police brutality, Maurice said. Just as much as the police want respect, the citizens want respect too.

Vines said she and her friends are still picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of the events that occurred nearly two weeks ago.

We are trying to figure out what happened and make sure that this doesn’t happen again, she said. In my eyes, her death was very unnecessary.

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