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Answers Sought in Police Shootings

June 10, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ Both the dead were black. Both officers are black.

Those facts haven’t stopped activists and a Chicago alderman from making claims of racism following the deaths of two motorists shot by police over the weekend.

Police said one of the dead, 26-year-old LaTanya Haggerty, was shot after an officer mistook her cellular phone for a gun. She was a passenger in a car pursued by police.

Authorities said the other victim _ 22-year-old Northwestern University football player Robert Russ _ was shot accidentally Saturday as he tried to grab an officer’s gun during a traffic stop.

``When you’re pulled over for a routine traffic stop, you shouldn’t end up dead,″ said Alderman Dorothy Tillman, who is black. ``We cannot sugarcoat this. We cannot say that these were black officers and that’s it.″

Tillman spoke outside a City Council meeting Wednesday that erupted into a shouting and shoving match as protesters accused officials of downplaying the role race may have played in the deaths.

She has asked police to hand over data that could back up her assumption that even black officers treat black citizens differently than white citizens.

The meeting came as the White House instructed federal law agencies to collect race and gender data on people they stop or arrest. The move comes amid so-called ``racial profiling″ of minorities by authorities.

Both Mayor Richard Daley and Police Superintendent Terry Hillard say Chicago officers do not use racial profiling when deciding who to stop.

In Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city with 2.8 million people, 39 percent of the population is black.

Five separate investigations of the Chicago shootings _ four by police and one by the Cook County state’s attorney _ are under way, according to Hillard.

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