Community remembers slain Chicago police Officer Ella French

On Aug. 7, 2021, Chicago police Officer Ella French was shot and killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop. One year later, fellow officers, friends and family gathered on a rainy afternoon to remember her and honor her life.

A picture of French smiled brightly upon those assembled at the Gold Star Families Memorial fountain.

“On days like today, when it’s easy to get lost in sadness, and maybe anger, we are called to remember joy and gratitude,” police Superintendent David Brown said. “I believe it’s what Ella would have wanted. She did what she loved doing and helped better people’s lives while she did it. That’s how we remember Ella.”

French, who was 29 when she was killed, had been working for the Chicago Police Department since April 2018. She was part of a community safety team tasked with patrolling dangerous neighborhoods.

Community remembers slain Chicago police Officer Ella French

The fatal shooting occurred near West 63rd Street and South Bell Avenue. French and two other officers, including Officer Carlos Yanez Jr., were conducting a traffic stop on three people in a vehicle when one of them shot at the officers, said First Deputy police Superintendent Eric Carter the day after the shooting. At least one of the officers returned fire, Carter said. One of the suspects was shot alongside Yanez and French.

Emonte Morgan was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer and other charges. His brother, Eric Morgan, was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful use of a weapon by a felon as well as one count of obstructing justice. The third person in the SUV was not charged.

At Sunday’s memorial, attendees hugged. Some held on tightly to tissues. Some wore pins with French’s face on them. A woman carried flowers. The weather — a steady, unrelenting rain — echoed the mood.

Community remembers slain Chicago police Officer Ella French
Community remembers slain Chicago police Officer Ella French

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was in attendance as well. French was the first Chicago police officer to be shot and killed while on duty since Lightfoot became mayor in 2019.

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“Officer French was truly the epitome of what it means to be called to serve, to be called to give of oneself in sacrifice,” Lightfoot said. “As anyone who knew Officer French would tell you, she was simply perfect for this role. Her kind and loving and caring nature, paired with her bright spirit, made her a joy to be around and to work with.

“Today we thank Officer French for choosing to help protect our city. We also always thank and remember her mother, Elizabeth, a paragon of strength and resilience,” Lightfoot added.

French’s mother was sitting in the front row. Earlier in the day at a ceremony at police headquarters, she enshrined her daughter’s Chicago police star, placing it into the superintendent’s star case

At the afternoon ceremony, other speakers also addressed Elizabeth French in their remarks.

Community remembers slain Chicago police Officer Ella French

“Miss French, I cannot imagine the pain and heartache you’re enduring today, in every minute of your day without your beautiful Ella,” said CPD chairwoman of Gold Star Families Maria Marmolejo. “I’m a mother myself, and I get it: This just was not the natural progression of how things should be — losing a child.”

“I’m here to tell you that, today and always, your daughter Ella French is a star amongst the stars, and she will shine bright always for the woman she was, the life she lived and the sacrifice she made to protect the city of Chicago,” Marmolejo said. “Among all those names etched on stone behind us, police Officer Ella French will forever be respected, honored and, most importantly, never forgotten.”

Down a pebble path and past a statue of a man in a wheelchair surrounded by family — honoring “catastrophically injured” officers — there is a circular concrete wall with the names of police officers who have died in the line of duty etched into black granite. The newest inscription reads “Ella Grace French.”

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