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Flossmoor officials face third contentious board meeting following death of Madeline Miller

For the third straight Flossmoor Village Board meeting, the village’s police department and elected officials faced a largely critical public demanding change in the wake of Madeline Miller’s death.

Tensions were high Monday, Aug. 15, during the regular meeting of the village board. Protesters disrupted the proceedings with shouts and chants after public comment was moved to the end of the meeting, multiple members of the audience were asked to leave, Police Chief Tod Kamleiter delivered a statement in support of his officers and public comment continued to be dominated by criticism of their actions.

“These cops could have done anything to de-escalate this situation, but they didn’t,” said Lewis Spells, Miller’s brother, while calling for justice.

Jacqueline Campbell Spells added, “My sister did not deserve to die. I am angry. I am very angry. … Say my sister’s name with respect: Madeline Miller.”

Miller was killed July 10 by police responding to a report of a domestic disturbance at 1437 Joyce Drive. In a video of the incident, someone with a walker opens the door to the residence for two officers and another person inside the home yells, “she’s trying to kill me.”

According to police: “Miller emerged from around a corner – armed with a large kitchen knife – and quickly ran at the officers with the knife pointed in their direction. The officers retreated back into the driveway, commanding Miller to drop the knife, but she ignored the directions and continued to advance toward the officers at a quick pace.”

Officers fired a total of three shots, and Miller collapsed in the driveway. She was taken to Advocate South Suburban Hospital, where she was later pronounced deceased, police said.

Since July 18, local residents, activists and Miller’s family have protested outside village hall and commented at the board meetings. That day, protesters chanted on their way out of the boardroom. The following meeting, Aug. 1, protesters remained in the boardroom chanting after the public comment period ended, and the board took a 25-minute recess until the crowd dispersed.

At the Aug. 15 meeting, a stanchion-and-belt barrier as well as a row of tables covered in green cloth appeared to form a barrier between the audience and the dais. Public comment, which has recently taken place as one of the first agenda items after roll call, was moved to after a brief consent agenda — the only action item on the night’s agenda, taken as one vote, with no discussion. That vote was interrupted by people shouting at the board and chants of “let them speak.”

“If you’d like a chance to speak, you’ll need to stop right now,” Mayor Michelle Nelson told the crowd.

After the chants continued, Nelson asked for a recess, which lasted roughly five minutes. During the recess, the audio from the boardroom was turned off for those watching the meeting via Zoom. But protesters continued chants including, “justice for Madeline Miller,” “say her name: Madeline Miller” and “come back out.”

When the board returned, a vote was called on the consent agenda. Then, Kamleiter was asked to provide an update on the investigation. He noted Flossmoor has submitted all reports to the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force investigating the incident. A report was shared Aug. 15 with Miller’s family, and a redacted version of it was shared with the community. He said police would continue to withhold the names of the officers involved because of the active investigation.

“After reviewing the incident report and the body-worn-camera video, the two officers responded in accordance with the Flossmoor Police Department’s use-of-force policy,” Kamleiter said in a statement interrupted several times by shouts from the crowd. “Given the immediate danger in the home, and the brandishing of a deadly weapon, we are confident the independent investigation will confirm our beliefs. It is the opinion of the Flossmoor Police Department that our officers responded in a manner as they were trained to do, to protect the multiple lives that were in danger that day. Our support is with the officers who were faced with making a difficult but necessary decision to use force during the tragic incident.”

Nelson echoed Kamleiter’s support for the officers, again with some interruptions from the public. At this point, Nelson asked the first of several people to leave the meeting following warnings about interruptions of the board’s proceedings. Police were present in the room and escorted several people toward the exit without appearing to make any physical contact.

“What happened on July 10 is a tragedy and our hearts are with the Miller family and all those involved,” Nelson said, noting the village is working with professional and community partners “in an effort to progress and heal from this tragedy.”

Once public comment began, a timer was displayed — tracking the board policy that individual public comments not exceed 5 minutes apiece. For those watching the meeting on Zoom, public speakers were not visible during this portion of the meeting for the first time in recent weeks, as the timer instead took over visual side of the feed. Their comments were still audible.

La’Shawn Littrice reiterated demands the public has made of the board following Miller’s death: officially discuss the incident on a board agenda, release the names of the officers involved, implement the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Street (CAHOOTS) program, launch an independent investigation, provide crisis intervention and de-escalation training for police, and implement an elected police oversight committee.

“Madeline Miller needed help, and Flossmoor failed her,” James Campbell added. “We have to find a way so this won’t happen again.”

Eric Leake called on Flossmoor to create a citizens review board.

“Police officers cannot investigate themselves,” Leake said. “We need others in the community to help do that. This will be a giant step toward resolution.”

All trustees were present, but none spoke on the issue during the meeting. The audience continued to chant after the meeting was adjourned.

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