Family of Rockford man shot by officer seeks answers
ROCKFORD — The family of the 21-year-old man shot by a Rockford officer during a police chase last week spoke publicly about the incident for the first time Thursday.
Flanked by their attorney, Nenye Uche, of Chicago, Tyris Jones’ parents said they have no information about what led up to the shooting, only what they have seen in local news reports. They do know, based on what Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross reported, that their son was shot in the back at least twice and was not armed.
“I just want to see justice for my son,” Antsine Jones said. “Nothing like this should happen to any parent.”
Jones is currently in critical condition and has already undergone more than one surgery.
“No matter what the circumstances were, my son is laying in a hospital bed right now, fighting for his life,” Rebecca Jones said. “No one is by his bedside but those nurses and those doctors. Please pray for my son and for my family for strength, for us to hold onto our faith so we don’t forget who’s in charge here.”
There have been conflicting reports regarding Jones’ condition. It was initially reported by Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea shortly after the shooting that his wounds were not life threatening. It was later learned he was in critical, yet stable condition. Uche said Thursday that Jones was recently in a medically induced coma.
“With anything medical, your condition can change,” Uche said. “Initially he was in critical condition, at some point became stable, then reverted back. Right now, he is about to go into (another) operation. And with any operation or procedure, there is risk. At this point in time, he’s not doing well.”
According to police, officers spotted Jones, who had outstanding warrants, driving on the city’s south side Oct. 2 and attempted to conduct a traffic stop. Instead, a chase ensued.
Authorities say Jones crashed the vehicle and then fled on foot. While running from officers, Jones allegedly approached another motorist. That’s when officer Dominick McNiece fired five shots, hitting Jones once in the arm and twice in the lower back. Hite Ross said at a press conference Saturday that McNiece believed Jones had a weapon. No weapon was recovered.
“We find ourselves yet again in a situation where an unarmed Black man is shot in the back,” Uche said. “That is undisputed. It is also undisputed that Tyris had no weapon on him. Not only did he have no weapon on him, he did not have any weapon around him.”
Uche said he wants to know why McNiece was the only officer on the scene to fire his weapon.
“What we’d like to know why (the officers) didn’t shoot,” he said. “They didn’t feel the need to shoot. Why this particular police officer? What’s going in with him? We want to find out. We want transparency. We have a situation that at the very least involves a traffic stop and fleeing and eluding. No violence is being alleged. This situation should have ended up with a traffic stop at the least, and an arrest for a misdemeanor at the most, not a shooting in the back.”
Also questioned is the involvement of the Winnebago Boone Integrity Task Force, an external commission that investigates use-of-force incidents.
“What are we really investigating?,” he said. “Tyris is not being accused of having a weapon on him. We know the police officer shot him in the back. The only investigation that we’re asking for and the family is asking for is a criminal investigation in to the police officer’s conduct.”
Uche said Jones’ family is seeking a special prosecutor to bring criminal charges against McNiece and that said a civil suit could be filed later.
The attorney also credited Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara for his push to equip the Rockford Police Department with body-worn cameras. He said although cameras must also come with policy changes, they are an important first step to hold officers accountable and keep the public informed.
“They have to institute proper police reform and proper training,” he said. “But I do feel that with body cameras activated–not just having them–actually activated and working, even bad police officers will think hard before they do something illegal. It’s a first step. Once the public knows there’s a shooting and there’s a body camera they get to watch and see what happened, that goes a long way as opposed to a situation where we don’t have body cameras.”