© 2023 NPR Illinois
The Capital's NPR Network 'News & Community' Service
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Chatham Police Release Edited Footage Of March Police Shooting And 911 Call

After denying public records requests to release the recording of a 911 call and dash camera footage of a police shooting in March, the Village of Chatham Police Department Thursday published edited versions of both.

Chatham Police Chief Vernon Foli narrates the nearly nine-minute video posted to the department’s Facebook page . Some parts of the video are graphic.

It begins with the 911 call from Gregory Small Jr.’s mom saying he is threatening to “kill people.” It shows Officer Adam Hahn driving to the scene, and Small running to the front yard, in his direction, while holding a knife. The officer yells for Small to drop the knife a couple times before shooting Small four times.

In anticipation of the police releasing dash camera footage, Small’s mother, Keena Small, took to social media earlier on Thursday and offered her first public comments since the March incident. Small’s family and Black Lives Matter Springfield launched an online campaign calling for the Sangamon County state’s attorney to drop a felony charge against Small as he was having an mental health crisis. Sunshine Clemons, Small’s sister, is co-founder of the group.

Keena Small (right) appears in a video with her daughter, Shawnaci Schroeder.

In Keena Small’s video, she speculated Chatham Police reversed course and moved to publish it to control the narrative. “I personally believe that it's for (the police department’s) sake that this video was being released,” she said.

Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright has said he doesn’t want to convict Small, but is offering a plea deal for him to enter Mental Health Recovery Court, a specialty court that can require counseling and other treatment to avoid jail time.

The Chatham Police Department previously denied Freedom of Information Act requests for the dash camera footage, saying Wright and Small’s defense attorney, Scott Sabin, believed making it public would deprive Small of a fair trial.

On its Facebook post, the Chatham Police Department said sharing the call and dash camera footage will “bring relevant and critical facts to light.”

Chatham Police Video

After Foli’s introduction, the video plays parts of Keena Small’s call with the 911 dispatcher. She says her son is not armed and the police have “dealt with him before.” After a moment, she begins shouting that he has grabbed a knife and is outside, starting to hurt himself with it. The dispatcher urges her to stay inside the house. She can be heard shouting to her other son, Jared, to stay inside with her. She also calls out, “No, Gregory! No!”

The video then switches to Officer Hahn’s dash camera, with him leaving the police station. On the way to Small’s house, he instructs the dispatcher to have emergency medical services wait at the church down the block.

Once Hahn arrives, the video shows him approach the house, while Small’s mom shouts that Small is in the back of the house and has a knife. Small is then seen running to the front yard of the house, while the officer backs away and yells for him to drop the knife.

“Mr. Small does not comply and runs toward the officer with a knife still in his hand,” Foli narrates.

Hahn fires four times and Small drops to the ground. The video shows the officer shoot Small about 35 seconds after arriving at the house. Small is still holding the knife, while he lies on the ground. Small can be heard groaning.

Hahn reports to dispatch that Small is holding the knife to his throat. Keena yells “No, Gregory!” in the background.

Hahn continues to stand over Small, with his gun drawn, and yells “drop the knife,” while Small calls to his mom for help. As a second police officer arrives, Small sits up, showing blood on his white T-shirt. The second officer on the scene asks Small’s name, and the officers slowly approach him before taking the knife away.

“EMS can approach, I got the knife,” Hahn tells the dispatcher, and the officers begin giving first aid. The video also shows them turning Small onto his stomach and holding his arms back, to “search for any additional weapons,” Foli says. Small calls for his mom again.

The video ends with emergency medical technicians putting Small on a gurney into the ambulance. His family said he stayed in the hospital for several weeks, undergoing surgeries and a period in the intensive care unit to treat his injuries.

An Illinois State Police investigation determined Hahn acted appropriately, and State’s Attorney Wright did not press charges.

Small Family Speaks

In her statement on social media, Keena Small said she told the officer not to shoot her son when he arrived, though this can’t be heard in the edited police footage. She said her son was holding a “smaller steak knife.” Keena Small said Gregory Small Jr. did not recognize his family at the time she called for help. “He didn't know his mother, he didn't know his brother. So he certainly wouldn't know an officer coming into the situation.”

She said her son doesn’t remember details from “episodes” like the one he was having when shot by police.

“I’m asking you to stand by us and don’t back down in asking them to drop the charges,” she said. Keena Small and other members of her family contend that Small is focused on recovering from his physical wounds while also undergoing mental health treatment.

“I don't feel that it's right for someone who's in a mental health crisis moment, when someone calls for help for them, for them to walk away with four bullet holes and a criminal record,” Clemons, Small’s sister and BLM Springfield co-founder,told NPR Illinois earlier this month. She said a criminal charge could negatively impact her brother’s life.

A preliminary hearing, set for May 27, in Small’s case has been delayed until July 1.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
Related Stories