ASHBURN — Thousands gathered Thursday on the Southwest Side for the funeral of Chicago police officer Ella French, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in West Englewood this month.
Law enforcement from across the country lined up outside St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel in Ashburn ahead of the services. More than 900 vehicles participated in the procession, according to police.
Inside the chapel, family, friends and former colleagues remembered the 29-year-old officer as someone who loved dogs and was truly dedicated to helping others.
Her mother, Elizabeth French, described the first time she met Ella — who was adopted — when the girl was 8 months old. She said Ella and her son, Andrew French, were her heart.
“Today, I am here with half my heart,” she said.
Elizabeth French also read from a letter she wrote to a young Ella French about the day she was adopted.
“Your baby face, as you entered my home, was so solemn and serious,” she wrote. “Then, you smiled. It was a smile that lit up your face, my home and captured my heart. … Please know that adopting you was one of the best things I ever did in my life.”
Ella French’s former partner also spoke through tears about his time working alongside the “bubbly and always smiling” French, who he said “genuinely loved people” and would scream when seeing a stray dog on the street — always insisting they stop and help the pup.
“Ella, you were a great police officer, friend and partner,” he said. “Thank you for all the great memories. I miss you.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich led the funeral mass and described the late officer as “a woman with empathy for the sufferings of others, humble enough to know she could always improve and generous enough to the point of dedicating her life to making a difference in the world.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Supt. David Brown, former Mayor Richard M. Daley and former police Supt. Garry McCarthy attended to pay tribute to French.
“The city of Chicago mourns the loss of one of our finest,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “My heart hurts for the family, friends and colleagues of officer Ella French, as we lay her to rest today. May the memories of how she lived carry her loved ones during this difficult time.”
Emonte Morgan, 21, has been charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting French and her partner, Carlos Yanez Jr. Yanez is still in the hospital after he was shot multiple times, and he faces a long road to recovery.
The shooting happened Aug. 7 in the 6300 block of South Bell Street, when officers, including French, pulled over Emonte’s brother, Eric Morgan, for having expired plates, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court last week.
Police body-camera video shows French and Yanez struggling with Emonte Morgan, and a gun in his waistband can be seen at one point, Murphy said.
The two officers’ guns were holstered as they tried to get him to cooperate, and he shot them multiple times, Murphy said.
Eric Morgan, 19, faces charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and obstruction of justice. A third man — Jamel Danzy, 29, of Indiana — has been charged with conspiracy to violate federal weapons laws in connection with the shooting. Prosecutors say both the car the Morgans were driving and the gun they use were owned by Danzy.
The incident left the city’s law enforcement community reeling, especially with gun violence up a reported 15 percent.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking and one of the reasons why it’s heartbreaking for me and a lot of other officers is that it didn’t have to happen,” a longtime officer with the 16th District said at a vigil last week. “Her death makes me more disgusted with the department. It enrages me.”
RELATED: At Vigil Honoring Slain Chicago Police Officer Ella French, Cops Say They Feel Ignored, Unvalued By City And Department
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