One year later, family demands justice for Joliet man shot by police

Jamal Smith’s aunt Everlean Dillard (center left), Smith's father, Wilson Smith, and Smith's mother, Charlene Edmond, gather outside Will County Courthouse to remember Jamal Smith on Monday, April 8, in Joliet.

The family of a Joliet man who died after he was shot by officers responding to a domestic disturbance last year gathered Monday to honor his life and pushed for the release of “unseen videos” of the incident.

More than 20 people were at the steps of the Will County Courthouse, where the family of Jamal Smith, 31, commemorated him and demanded justice on the one-year anniversary of the police shooting that led to his death.

Smith had been shot by officers responding to a domestic call who reported seeing him firing gunshots outside an apartment complex in Joliet.

“What they took from me was my best friend,” said Charlene Edmond, Smith’s mother.

Edmond said her son loved her, his family and his eight children. She said her family is trying to help Smith’s surviving children cope with the loss of their father.

“All they say is they miss their dad, and all we can do is comfort them when they say that and be there for them. So I leave you with, we need justice now,” Edmond said.

Smith’s aunt, Everlean Dillard, said the family wants all the “unseen videos from all the officers out there,” as well as videos from the Lois Place apartment complex where Smith was shot.

Dillard and other family members chanted, “Release the videos.”

“Jamal’s voice will be heard through his family until we get peace, until we get the videos,” Dillard said.

Charlene Edmond holds a photo of her son Jamal Smith during a gathering outside Will County courthouse to remember Jamal on Monday, April 8, 2024 in Joliet.

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests last year, the Joliet Police Department released the body camera videos from Officers Christopher McClinton and Erick Gutierrez, who fired their guns at Smith.

About 4:50 a.m. April 8, 2023, the two officers responded to a domestic disturbance at an apartment complex in the 900 block of Lois Place and were told a “subject may have a firearm,” according to police reports.

The body camera videos showed both officers walking on a sidewalk at the parking lot and approaching one of the doorways to one of the apartment buildings at Lois Place. Smith is seen from a far distance standing outside a doorway.

After one of the officers says, “Hey,” a loud popping noise is heard, and one of the officers then says, “Drop the … ” before they start firing their guns at Smith, according to the videos. While it’s difficult to tell from the body camera videos, the officers said in their reports they saw Smith with a firearm and firing shots in a westbound direction.

After the shooting, the officers approached Smith, who’s seen lying on his back on the ground. Officer Gutierrez is seen kicking away a gun that was close to Smith’s feet. The officers examine Smith’s body and hold pressure on his wounds before paramedics arrived.

Smith was still alive after suffering a gunshot wound to the neck and leg. He later died Aug. 11, 2023.

On Dec. 18, 2023, a prosecutor with Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow’s Office told the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force that based on their review of the case, there is “no basis to prosecute any law enforcement officer involved in the officer-involved death of Jamal Smith.”

While Smith’s shooting was publicly announced by authorities at the time, neither Glasgow’s office nor the police department publicly announced the results the investigation into the shooting last December.

Unlike the 2019 police shootings of Bruce Carter and Nakia Smith, Glasgow’s office has also not publicly released any letters discussing their findings about the Smith shooting.

Smith’s family said Monday that they still miss him daily and they still had questions about the shooting. One of them was Randall Harrison, who considered himself Smith’s “big cousin” and “big brother.”

“Please release the video. I cannot sleep at night, I cannot work. I can’t sleep. I cannot sleep. I will not be at peace,” Harrison said.

Trista Graves Brown, founder of the community organization SpeakUp, mentioned how Smith and Victor Williams participated in a protest on May 31, 2020.

On that day, the two men were involved in altercation with former Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk that resulted in a federal lawsuit against O’Dekirk and a $93,000 settlement from the City of Joliet.

Special Prosecutor Bill Elward declined to file charges against O’Dekirk. Nevertheless, Elward told Will County Chief Judge Dan Kennedy in a letter that he didn’t condone O’Dekirk’s “poor judgement in the incident.”

Brown said people need to know Smith’s name and “not the rap sheet.”

“This man was a loving person and he loved his family,” Brown said.

Jamal Smith and Victor Williams pose for a portrait Monday, Jun. 8, 2020, in front of city hall in Joliet, Ill.