The NAACP says the Peoria Police Department’s annual Valor Awards are a “slap in the face,” to the family and friends of Eddie Russell Jr. The awards for bravery and valor Wednesday went to the six officers who were on the tactical response team that shot and killed Russell September 20th, last year.
Peoria NAACP President Marvin Hightower says Russell’s death is hard to take, but awarding the people who shot him added insult to injury. He says it’s hard to take, particularly because of the “extenuating circumstance in the case.” Hightowner says, “he was not a typical robber. It was known that he had mental issues and it should have been dealt with in that vein.”
Eddie Russell Jr. allegedly robbed a bank blocks from his mother's house before he barricaded himself inside the home and a two-hour standoff with police ensued. The Illinois State Police investigation found that the six officers shot him 18 times when he emerged from the house with a raised gun. Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady said it was not excessive use of force and fell within the scope of the officers’ duty.
But Past Peoria Chapter NAACP Chair Don Jackson says the Daniel El situation is also incorporated into the recent Peoria Police Valor awards. He says that points to bigger a problem because some of the officers involved in the Russell shooting were also responsible for shooting El.
El was shot and killed by Peoria Police in the early morning hours of February 1st, after a traffic stop. El fled and reportedly fired at police before he was shot and killed. That matter is still under investigation by the Illinois State Police, which is standard in all police-involved shootings.
Jackson says placing awards of valor on the officers involved in both shootings strongly suggests police are going to shoot first and ask questions later and celebrate those who act in such a way. He says Daniel El’s death is still lacking details that will help people understand how and why it happened. Jackson adds this is all very troubling for the safety and well-being of young African- American men in Peoria.
Marvin Hightower says the NAACP will meet with the Peoria Police Department and other city officials on the matter of the valor awards. He says the NAACP must ensure certain policies are better understood if not changed. He says it’s imperative the methods used to determine the Peoria Police Department’s annual awards are adjusted in such a way that this never happens again.
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) was also going to issue that agencies’ annual valor awards Friday. The ceremony was delayed. The Interim Police Chief and Public Information Officer say the delay was necessary because the FOP wanted to recognize officer also involved in the Daniel El incident that is still under investigation.
As for why that wasn’t an issue in the Peoria Police Department’s awards ceremony involving the same officers? The Interim Chief and Public Information Officer say the interagency award recognizes work done in the previous year and the FOP awards are granted for work in the current year.
The results of the IPS investigation on El case are pending.