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Illinois Family Files Two Separate Lawsuits Against Sheriff and County Alleging Deception After Finding Out Police Fatally Shot a Black Senior Citizen and Blamed Death on His Grandson

In Joliet Township, Illinois, the Will County Sheriff, his department, a local hospital, and the Will County are being sued by the family of two men killed by deputies in 2021. The department failed to reveal they shot both, leading the public to believe the older man was fatally stabbed by his grandson.

Illinois Family Files Two Separate Lawsuits Against Sheriff and County Alleging Deception After Finding Out Police Fatally Shot a Black Senior Citizen and Blamed Death on His Grandson
Jabbar Muhammad (left), Eldred Wells Sr. (right) Credit: CBS News Screengrab)

Two lawsuits were filed on behalf of the two men, 21-year-old Jabbar Muhammad and his 70-year-old grandfather, Eldred Wells Sr., who were killed at the hands of deputies from the WCSO.

One lawsuit, obtained by Atlanta Black Star, was filed on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the 12th judicial circuit court in Will County, Illinois, by Sadie Mitchell, sister of Wells, and calls out the county and Sheriff Mike Kelly for the death of the grandfather.

The other, also obtained by Atlanta Black Star, was filed the same day in the same court, by Rhonda Wells, mother of Muhammad, and it names the county and sheriff as defendants, but also lists the Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital and Dr. Soberekon Melvin Koko for releasing Muhammad early.

The family alleges when officers came to their Joliet Township home at the 300 block of Middletree Road around 4:00 p.m. to respond to a domestic disturbance call on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, they immediately engaged in violence and ignored the sensitivities that should have been associated with the case.

Muhammad was, at the time, in the middle of a mental health crisis the incident, required officers to approach the incident utilizing some kind of de-escalating tactics.

The complaints allege, when the deputies arrived, they saw Jabbar holding a knife in his right hand, and his unarmed grandfather standing not far away.

The officer, reportedly directed their attention to Muhammad, shouting at him, which caused the already troubled man to become agitated. The lawsuit submits the deputies should have separated the men in an effort to protect the senior citizen and “provide the best opportunity to de-escalate the domestic dispute.”

“When the increasing yelling and agitation became too much, Jabbar Muhammad lunged” at his grandfather, the lawsuit shares, prompting the deputies to fire their weapons multiple times and fatally shot both of the men.

Muhammad’s mother also believes the hospital where her son was being treated after attempting suicide a week prior to his death is at fault.

Rhonda Wells states in the lawsuit, Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital was negligent when doctors released her son.

According to her lawsuit, the hospital let him go “before it was safe to discharge him.” 

She stated the hospital diagnosed the young man with psychosis and recorded that he would not take his medication. Rhonda notes in her claim this should have been enough for them to keep him at the facility.

The complaint alleges Muhammad also admitted “He wanted to kill people all the time.”

“Silver Oaks Behavioral, LLC breached the standard of care by carelessly and negligently discharging Jabbar Muhammad on November 6, 2021, to a residential environment that was not safe for him given his clinical condition,” the legal filing states.

The day he was released was the day he attacked his grandfather and was killed by the deputies.

The lawsuit suggests if he had been held and treated more, none of the events on that Saturday would have happened.

In addition to the claims of use of excessive force and the negligence on the hospital’s part, the family says the sheriff’s department seems to have intentionally misled the family and public about Wells’ death.

The sheriff’s department implied Muhammad killed his grandfather by writing in public reports that he’d stabbed Wells without mentioning he’d been been hit by deputies’ gunfire.

This information was provided after the family filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and the CBS 2’s investigative team pushed for the WCSO to let them see the footage of the shooting. Five months after the shooting, the county screened bodycam video privately for the family in April.

Around that time family also received medical reports describing Wells’ wounds .

One report stated when the paramedics arrived, both men were “laying on the ground in a pool of blood, with two officers doing compressions on both patients.” 

Another paramedic report said the emergency workers counted 15 gunshot wounds (three in the head and 12 in other parts of body) on Muhammad. The report showed that Wells’ neck and shoulder had been stabbed, and that later he was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

A month after the incident, the family found out that the paramedics did not do a complete review of Wells’ body and did not notice the older man had been shot in his back and in his left hand.

Also, it was later revealed the Will-Grundy County Task Force, the agency investigating the incident, never disclosed in any of their public statements about the incident that Wells had been shot.

The family’s lawyer Keenan Saulter said, “Mr. Wells was shot multiple times, but the fatal bullet was through his back, and it struck and severed his aorta.”

The lawyers also assert that the deputies also knew Muhammad struggled with mental illness, as dispatchers repeatedly told them about previous issues the young man had experienced at that address.

This was information not made public by the Task force, which refused to explain why they did not record this in the official release about the two men’s deaths.

When talking about how difficult it was to get the information regarding her father and son, Rhonda Wells said, “I just want to know what happened. Why? Don’t leave us just with our thoughts. Just let us know…we have nothing. We just want to know the facts.”

Not everyone wanted to withhold information.

Dan Jungles, Deputy Chief of Investigation with the Will County Sheriff’s Office, told CBS 2 he wanted to release the bodycam videos sooner but was told not to because there was still an ongoing investigation.

Jungles said, “We wanted to show this video publicly immediately.”

Three deputies were involved in the deaths of Muhammad and Wells, days after the lawsuits were filed, the task force said the criminal investigation was completed months ago, on July 21.

The investigation cleared the deputies of any criminal liability and all of them have been reinstated back to their regular patrol.

Those names will not be released, according to Jungle, until another internal investigation is complete. What he did reveal is that only two actually discharged their firearms. The other one fired his Taser.

Without explaining how it obtained the information, a Joliet Patch outlet is reporting the identities of two deputies — one white, the other Black — it says were the shooters.

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