Will County Fails To Disclose It Shot 70-Year-Old Man: FOIA Lawsuit

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JOLIET, IL — The Will County Sheriff’s Office put out inaccurate information surrounding the Nov. 6 deaths of a 70-year-old grandfather and his 21-year-old grandson; both men were shot by sheriff’s deputies, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday against Will County Sheriff Mike Kelley and Coroner Laurie Summers.

Attorney Ian Barney filed the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit at the Will County Courthouse, arguing Kelley and Summers violated the law and refused to provide the family of Eldred Wells Sr., 70, and Jabbar Muhammed, 21, with body camera footage from the Will County Sheriff’s deputies who shot both Walls and Muhammed on Nov. 6, 2021.

“Nevertheless, five months on from the incident, neither the family of Jabbar and Eldred Sr. nor any representative of the family has been given the opportunity to view the body camera videos despite repeated requests,” Barney’s lawsuit states.

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After Will County deputies fatally shot Muhammed inside his grandfather’s Joliet Township house that Saturday afternoon, Chief Deputy Sheriff Dan Jungles issued a news release on Nov. 7 indicating deputies shot and killed Muhammed to save the life of his grandfather.

The person who called 911 said his 21-year-old brother had a knife and was threatening his grandfather, according to Jungles. The news release from Jungles claimed that Wells died after being stabbed in the neck by his grandson.

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“After being shot, Jabbar continued to stab his grandfather in the neck and deputies fired their service weapons several more times,” Jungles announced Nov. 7.

At no point during the past five months has the Will County Sheriff’s Office and the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force issued a news release acknowledging Will County sheriff’s deputies shot the 70-year-old retired grandfather inside his house in the 300 block of Middletree Road.

Barney, the family’s lawyer, told Joliet Patch he has obtained the medical records from Silver Cross Hospital and from the East Joliet Fire Department. East Joliet rushed Wells to Silver Cross, which is where he died.

Those documents show Wells was shot at least twice, including once in the back and once in the hands, Barney told Joliet Patch on Tuesday afternoon.

Muhammed, the 21-year-old nephew, did not have a gun, Barney said.

“On November 6, 2021, Jabbar Muhammad and Eldred Wells, Sr. were killed in Joliet, Illinois in a police-involved shooting involving deputies of WCSO,” his lawsuit states. “Jabbar was shot approximately 10 or more times by deputies of WCSO, including multiple times in the face. He died as a result. Eldred Sr. was also shot multiple times by deputies of WCSO, including once in the back. Eldred Sr. also died.

“In the aftermath of the shooting, agents of WCSO reported to news media that Jabbar was shot and killed while fatally stabbing his grandfather, Eldred Sr. No information relating to Eldred, Sr. being shot by WCSO deputies was disclosed. It was also not disclosed that Jabbar was shot in the face multiple times.”

Attorney Ian Barney is suing Will County’s Sheriff and County Coroner Laurie Summers for lack of transparency. Image via Ian Barney used with permission

On Tuesday, Joliet Patch left messages seeking reaction to the lawsuit from Will County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer and Summers, the coroner.

Kelley is in his second four-year term, and he is running for a third term in the November general election. Summers was on the Will County Board before being elected coroner in 2020. Both Kelley and Summers are Democrats.

The lawsuit against them indicates that sheriff’s deputies “were wearing activated officer-worn body cameras at the time the shooting took place. The officer-worn body cameras recorded the shooting and, consequently, the deaths of Jabbar and Eldred, Sr.”

According to the FOIA lawsuit, the Will-Grundy Major Crimes Task Force was charged with investigating the Nov. 6 police shooting in Preston Heights. In November and December, the task force’s lead investigator told Barney “that they did not believe showing the body camera video to the family of Jabbar and Eldred, Sr. would obstruct or interfere with their investigation.

“In early December of 2021, the Task Force completed its witness interviews in this matter and turned its investigative materials over to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office,” the lawsuit noted.

Summers, the coroner, has refused to release the autopsy reports, even though it’s been more than five months since Muhammed and his grandfather died during a Will County sheriff’s shooting inside the family’s home, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.

“On March 16, 2022, Plaintiffs submitted a request for public records to Defendants WCCO and Summers seeking the following records: ‘any and all reports, including autopsy reports, toxicology reports, and investigative reports, for the following deceased individuals: Jabbar Muhammad (DOB: 10/8/2000); Eldred Wells, Sr. (DOB: 3/1/1951),'” the lawsuit states. “Defendants WCCO and Summers denied Plaintiff’s request for documents in its entirety … Defendants WCCO and Summers’s denial of Plaintiffs’ request lack the detailed factual basis necessary to invoke an exemption under” Freedom of Information Act statutes.

Will County Chief Deputy Dan Jungles did not disclose that one of his deputies shot 70-year-old Eldred Wells Sr. inside Wells’ house on Nov. 6. John Ferak/Patch

Barney’s lawsuit asks Will County’s judges to declare that Kelley and Summers have violated the Freedom of Information Act, order them to produce the requested records, order the defendants to pay civil penalties, award the plaintiffs reasonable attorneys fees, costs and award such other relief as the court deems appropriate.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, CBS Chicago investigative reporter Dave Savini produced an exposé headlined: “Will County deputies shot a grandfather in the back and never told the public. Five months later, officials still won’t show the body camera video.”

To watch Savini’s exclusive report about the Will County Sheriff’s Office, go to CBS Channel 2.

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