Police defend actions in deadly standoff at Chicago apartment

Saturday, November 25, 2006

CHICAGO -- The family of a 22-year-old female hostage said Friday that they were upset and confused with police's actions during a 23-hour Thanksgiving Day standoff that ended with a gunman killing the hostage and himself.

"We're angry," said India Cooks, 30, whose cousin Tasha Cooks was killed. "This is about, 'Did you do the best job you could to save a life?'"

First deputy superintendent Dana Starks said negotiators had tried for hours to coax Lance Johnson, 21, to end the standoff, but SWAT team members rushed the third-floor apartment immediately after the sound of a gunshot shortly after 1 a.m. on Friday, he said.

"We have protocols and procedures we had been following," Starks said. "At no time did the Chicago Police Department fire a weapon."

Cooks and Johnson were the only people found in the apartment on the city's South Side, despite earlier reports from Johnson and the victim that a second hostage was inside, Starks said. They were later pronounced dead at an area hospital.

"They [police] talked to him. He assured us he wouldn't kill her. He said, 'All I want is a cigarette and some soda pop.' He said, 'I'm not going to hurt her,"' India Cooks said.

Police have not released the victim's identity, but relatives said she was Cooks, a nursing home worker.

Frustrated relatives and neighbors said police should have done more to end the standoff. A group of about ten people angrily questioned police who arrived at the apartment on Friday afternoon.

"I think police could have gotten more control of the situation and could have gotten there before," said Donzell McKinzie, Cooks' 23-year-old brother. "We've just been crying all day."

Police have not said whether Cooks and Johnson knew each other, but family members said they were neighbors.

Cooks used the apartment's phone to call her great-grandmother earlier in the day, family members said. Around 8 p.m., she told them she was inside and being beaten.

"That was the last time I heard ... her and she said she didn't want to talk anymore," McKinzie said.

The standoff took place inside a three story brick apartment building in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood, which sits along Lake Michigan.

James Milton, 35, has lived in neighborhood for 18 years and knew Cooks.

"She was a nice, quiet little girl. She didn't really bother anyone. She was someone everyone knew," Milton said.

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