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.
Michael Craig was desperate for help from police in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, the day he was shot dead by a police officer, according to his son, Patrick Jenkins.
Wednesday, after Chicago’s police oversight agency released its files on the shooting, Jenkins said there was ample evidence that Craig himself had called police and was the victim of an attack by his knife-wielding wife.
Not long after he woke, the 61-year-old Craig called 911 and said his wife was holding a knife to his throat as he lay in bed, apparently as his 7-year-old son looked on, according to a recording released by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.
“I need the police over here, my wife’s got a knife on my neck, on the bed. Are there any officers coming here?” Craig asked dispatchers.
“She’s got a knife on my neck, and I can’t move. If I move she’ll kill me. I’ve got the front door open, tell the officers the door is open, my kid is opening the door,” Craig said, before directing his son. “Go downstairs so you can let the police in. Go. Do like I said, go downstairs.”
But the first officer to arrive shot Craig, twice, within seconds of entering the apartment.
“Everything my father told them, everything he cried out for, they ignored,” Jenkins said. “And then they let him die like a dog.”
A neighbor, awakened by Craig’s 7-year-old son, also called 911 that morning and reported that Craig was being threatened by his wife. Craig’s son was waiting on the sidewalk when the officer arrived, and the boy told him that his mother had the knife and his father had been the one that told him to call police. As he approached the door with his Taser drawn, the officer called out to the people inside the apartment, and Craig shouted back, “She’s got a butcher knife to my neck.”
Then there is a scream from inside the apartment, and the officer switches the Taser to his left hand and draws his pistol, and an instant after crossing the threshold, he fires both weapons at Craig as he and his wife dart across a narrow, half-dark hallway. Stepping closer as Craig and his wife both lay on the floor, the officer fires a second shot at Craig as the man tries to sit up.
“Every bit of evidence (police) had on the way to the scene, the statements by Craig himself, point to him being the victim, but he fires those shots with no hesitation” said Michael Oppenheimer, an attorney for Craig’s family said Wednesday.
Moments later, 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.
Oppenheimer and Craig’s family reviewed the video with COPA staff on Tuesday. He said it did not appear clear that Craig was holding a knife as the officer opened fire.
“There was no sign that he was holding a knife. It was on the floor behind him, closer to her, Oppenheimer said, adding that Craig had been stabbed “at least” four times while Craig’s wife was unhurt.
“He was the victim here, and they knew that. They made him a victim again.”
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.
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 hospitalized for mental health issues. The 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.” In the section “Reason for Response” the officer marked “defense of a member of the public” and “subject armed with a weapon.”
The officer is on administrative duty, per department policy on officer-involved shootings, CPD spokesman Don Terry said Wednesday. The COPA investigation is ongoing.