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Witness: Shot Woman Was Defenseless

June 12, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ A woman killed by police gunfire had her hands in the air and was telling officers she was getting out of a car when she was shot, according to a woman who says she witnessed the shooting.

``She’s shaking and saying ’I’m getting out, I’m getting out,″ Lanita Gray told the Chicago Tribune. ``Then the gun goes off. I don’t think (the officer) knew she shot her.″

It was one of two cases last weekend in which Chicago police killed unarmed people during traffic stops. In the other shooting, police said a Northwestern University student was shot when he tried to grab an officer’s gun. In both cases, the victims and the officers were black.

The shootings have prompted an inquiry by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Gray, 21, said she was at a South Side store with her children the night of June 4 when LaTanya Haggerty was killed, the Tribune reported in Saturday editions.

Haggerty was a passenger in a car that police had stopped for an expired license plate. The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that an unidentified source said the driver tried to hit them and that officers said they opened fire when the man pulled away.

After the car was stopped again, the driver ran away and Haggerty was shot, police say, when patrol officer Serena Daniels mistook a cellular phone in her hand for a gun.

``They didn’t have to shoot that girl,″ Gray said. ``They think everything’s a gun.″

Gray said she heard Daniels curse to herself after she shot Haggerty and then later saw her stroke Haggerty’s hair.

A Chicago police spokeswoman declined to discuss Gray’s comments when contacted Saturday by The Associated Press. Spokeswoman Lauri Sanders said she did not know if investigators had interviewed Gray.

Attempts to reach Gray by the AP were unsuccessful.

The Tribune quoted unidentified sources as saying her account is consistent with other witness accounts of what happened the night the 26-year-old Haggerty died.

There was no comment Saturday from Daniels, whose home telephone number is not listed.

Haggerty’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Chicago and Daniels.

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