The Internal Affairs division of the Will County Sheriff’s Office found deputies who fatally shot a grandfather and his grandson in Joliet Township were justified in using deadly force and that “any reasonable officer would have responded similarly.”
Sheriff’s Cmdr. Dan Troike sent Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley a summary of IA’s investigation of the deadly Nov. 6, 2021, shooting on Nov. 15, about four months after the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office notified a task force investigating the incident that no charges would be filed over the incident.
Troike concluded that deputies Nick Binnendyk and Desmond Warren “responded reasonably” to protect Eldred Wells, 70, from his grandson Jabbar Muhammad, 21, who was “was actively stabbing him with a knife,” according to a report from Troike that was released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
“This incident escalated very fast, and any reasonable officer would have responded similarly,” Troike’s report said.
Troike determined that Muhammad had been struck at least 16 times by gunfire, and Wells was struck three times. He noted Wells also suffered five stab wounds.
Troike said both deputies were within the sheriff’s office use of force policy, which states that deputies are justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when they reasonably believe that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another.
The shots fired by the deputies that day were the primary cause of death for Wells, according to a March 1 report from Valerie Arangelovich, a forensic pathologist for the Will County Coroner’s Office. Arangelovich also had determined that “multiple stab and incised wounds” from Muhammad had contributed to Wells’ death.
Muhammad also died from the deputies’ gunfire.
The family of both men have filed wrongful death lawsuits against Will County and Kelley.
The lawsuit from Rhonda Wells, Muhammad’s mother, alleged that deputies should have separated Muhammad from his grandfather, and they caused agitation to Muhammad by yelling and drawing their guns at him.
“When the increasing yelling and agitation became too much, Jabbar Muhammad lunged at Eldred J. Wells Sr., which resulted in the deputies discharging their service weapons,” according to Wells’ lawsuit.
Rhonda Wells’ lawsuit blamed the deputies for failing to de-escalate the situation, which led Muhammad to lunge with a knife at his grandfather and led to the deputies fatally shooting both men.
Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Bowman also had deployed his Taser in the incident, but he told Troike that one of the prongs from the Taser had missed Muhammad.
“Deputy Bowman stated to the best of his recollection [that] it appeared that he and Deputy Binnendyk discharged their weapons almost simultaneously,” Troike’s report said.
The deputies interviewed by Troike said they were familiar with the 300 Middletree Road residence where the incident occurred, as there had been past calls for service regarding Muhammad having psychological issues.
Muhammad’s 19-year-old brother made the initial 911 call.
“My brother’s arguing with my grandfather, and my grandfather just asked me to call 911. I think he has a knife,” the brother told police dispatch.
The brother told a 911 dispatcher that no one was injured and Muhammad had a pocket knife.