Elgin, Illinois – Disturbing footage has been released that shows the confrontation between police and a mentally ill woman who they claim was suicidal when they initiated a standoff that led to the officers shooting and killing the woman as she jumped out of her burning vehicle.
Decynthia Clements, 34, was found sitting in her car on a gravel road on March 12, and officers claimed that when they tried to approach her, she drove away. She was approached again on the highway, this time by multiple officers.
The Body Cam footage shows an officer pulling on the locked door handles of Clements’ car and knocking on the windows in an attempt to get her to step out of the car. He then begins yelling at her to open the door of the vehicle, but her response is muffled by the closed window.
“Cynthia, don’t make this any harder on yourself, just open the door,” the officer yelled as Clements responded by talking animatedly and waving around a cigarette. She then proceeded to smoke the cigarette inside the car while the officer waited outside her door with his flashlight aimed at the vehicle.
The stand-off lasted for more than an hour, and after Clements began to drive her car forward several feet, more officers arrived at the scene. They then boxed her car in between two patrol cars to prevent her from moving.
Dash Cam footage from the vehicle parked in front of Clements’ car shows her throwing an object into her backseat. As the officers order Clements to leave her vehicle over loudspeakers, the car begins to fill with smoke.
“She’s got a knife to her neck! She’s got a knife to her neck!” One of the officers yelled. Although he was wearing a body camera that was recording the scene, the amount of smoke in the vehicle makes it hard to tell from the video whether Clements was holding a knife to her neck.
An officer in the car parked in front of Clements’ vehicle warned that there was “a flare in the vehicle,” and then said, “Alright, we’re going to have to extract her here. Standby.”
Several officers surrounded the car and as they discussed having Tasers and a metal shield ready for when Clements exited the vehicle and remarked on whether they should break one of her windows in order to get her out of the car, the driver door flew open.
“Get out of the car! Put the knife down!” The officers yelled. As soon as Clements’ feet hit the ground, a trio of gunshots rang out and she fell to the ground.
The officers have been criticized for being too quick to shoot Clements when she was finally starting to follow their orders by exiting the vehicle. Her father, Charles Clements, told WGN-TV, “It was like murder watching that video. She fell out of the car and they started shooting.”
In a statement, attorneys Antonio Romanucci and Andrew Stroth said that the footage raises legitimate questions about the tactics used by Elgin police and that they believe, “This situation did not have to escalate to such a degree that cost a young woman her life.”
After viewing the footage from the shooting that was released by police, both Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain and City Council member Tish Powell told the Chicago Tribune that they thought the footage was “disturbing.”
“I’m deeply disturbed by what I saw on the video and have some serious questions about how this was handled, particularly the last few seconds of the situation,” Powell said.
As The Free Thought Project has documented, officers do not receive adequate training on how to deal with mentally ill citizens, and those individuals often become the subjects of cruel torture that can lead to death, carried out at the hands of police.
Whether Decynthia Clements was truly suicidal or just having a mental health episode, the footage from her final hours makes one thing clear—the tactics used by police only served to exacerbate the situation and to make things worse before eventually killing Clements.