Police oversight agency released body-worn camera video showing officer shooting 61-year-old after 911 caller reported Craig was being attacked with a knife by his wife.
Body-worn camera footage showing 61-year-old Michael Craig being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer was released Wednesday by the city’s police oversight agency, along with recordings of police dispatcher calls that show Craig called for help after his wife attacked him with a knife.
Video released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability shows the officer as he arrives at Craig’s apartment building in the 7700 block of South Carpenter Street in the Gresham neighborhood the morning of Oct. 4.
Craig’s 7-year-old son is waiting outside when the officer arrives, and tells the officer that his mother has a knife and is threatening his father. The video shows the officer walking up the stairs to Craig’s second-floor apartment with a Taser in his right hand. From the stairwell outside the door, the officer announces “Chicago police,” and Craig can be heard yelling back “She got a butcher knife to my neck!”
As the officer prepares to step through the door, Craig’s wife screams and the officer draws his pistol, switching the Taser to his left hand.
He fired the first shot almost immediately after crossing the threshold of the apartment door, as Craig and his wife appear to struggle in a narrow hallway between the kitchen and bathroom. Craig and the woman fall to the floor, and the officer fires a second shot as Craig tries to sit up, as the officer shouts “Stop! Stop! Stop touching her.”
The snapping sound of the Taser can be heard, but it is not clear if the darts struck Craig.
Craig shifts slightly on the floor, sprawled on his side in the doorway beside his wife, a pool of blood growing underneath him. His wife lies a few feet away, limp on the floor as the officer asks if she has been cut. A knife lies on the floor between Craig and his wife.
A second officer, standing behind the officer who shot Craig, asks “Who had the knife?” The officer replies, “He did. He was poking her with it.”
“He was, st-stabbing her with it?” the officer asks.
The officer repeatedly asks the woman where she was cut or if she is hurt, but she gives no response.
Michael Oppenheimer, an attorney who viewed the video with Craig’s family and COPA staff on Tuesday, said it did not appear clear that Craig was holding a knife as the officer opened fire.
“These police officers are woefully undertrained [in] domestic violence. This man called the police, he depended on them to help him, and he wound up dead,” Oppenheimer said Wednesday. “They fired twice — once when they went through the door, and once as he was laying on the floor. There was no sign that he was holding a knife. It was on the floor behind him, closer to her.”
Craig was stabbed “at least” four times, Oppenheimer said, while Craig’s wife was unhurt.
“He was the victim here, and they knew that. They made him a victim again.”
The first call to 911 came from a neighbor who said Craig’s 7-year-son had woken him up with a knock at the door. Craig himself called police and gave a detailed description of the situation officers would encounter when they arrived, according to dispatcher recordings also released by COPA.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
Chicago police investigate inside an apartment in the 7700 block of South Carpenter Street after an officer shot and killed a man Oct. 4, 2021, while answering a call of a domestic disturbance in the Gresham neighborhood.
“I need the police over here, my wife’s got a knife on me, on the bed, on my throat… Can we get some officers out here?” Craig told dispatchers.
“My kid is here and he’s scared. … One [kid] here, another is gone to school. She’s got a knife on my neck, I can’t move. If I move she’s gonna kill me. I’ve got the front door open, tell the officers the door is open, my kid is opening the door. Go downstairs so you can let the police in. Go. Do like I said, go downstairs.”
The day after the shooting, Deputy Chief Rahman Muhammad told reporters that officers were dispatched to Craig’s address after getting a call about a “domestic disturbance” between a man and a woman.
“The officers observed a domestic altercation coming from within,” Muhammad said. “The responding officer discharged his service weapon, striking an individual.”
Fire Department officials later confirmed that Craig had died, and that his wife had been taken to a hospital.
Oppenheimer said Craig’s wife was unhurt but was hospitalized for mental health issues. The couple’s 7-year-old son now is living with relatives. Craig’s wife was not among the family members present to watch the video Tuesday at COPA offices, Oppenheimer said.
Craig and his wife had been married for 10 years, and neighbors said police had come to the apartment because of loud fights many times over the years. Craig’s wife was arrested in 2016 after stabbing him, but those charges were dropped, Oppenheimer said. A police report released by COPA states that there were three past incidents of domestic abuse.
In a use-of-force report, in the section listing the “subject’s actions,” the officer checked the boxes for “did not follow verbal directions” and “physical attack with a weapon.”
A Chicago police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions from the Chicago Sun-Times about the officer’s duty status. Department policy is that officers involved in fatal shootings move to administrative duty while a COPA investigation is pending.