Emonte Morgan Convicted of Murder in Fatal 2021 Shooting of Chicago Police Officer Ella French

A memorial is on display at the funeral of Chicago police Officer Ella French on Aug. 19, 2021. (WTTW News)A memorial is on display at the funeral of Chicago police Officer Ella French on Aug. 19, 2021. (WTTW News)

Emonte Morgan has been convicted of killing Chicago police Officer Ella French after he unleashed what prosecutors described as “absolute carnage” during an Englewood traffic stop in 2021.

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

A 12-person jury found Morgan, 23, guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder charges, more than two and a half years after he killed French and critically wounded her partner, Carlos Yanez Jr.

“This defendant took away Ella’s ability to think,” Assistant State’s Attorney Emily Stevens said during her closing argument. “He took away her ability to move, he took away her ability to breathe. And in the end, this defendant took away every bit of life she had left to give.”

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday morning, a week after testimony in the trial began. Morgan himself opted not to testify, and his defense team did not call any witnesses.

French’s mother, Elizabeth, sobbed as the verdicts were read before a courtroom filled with Chicago police. Morgan had no visible reaction.

The jury reached its verdict after three and a half hours of deliberations.

Throughout the trial jurors heard testimony from French’s mother, who spoke about the last conversation she had with her daughter the day she died, as well as the two surviving officers who were with French the night of the shooting.

They also repeatedly viewed graphic body camera footage that showed French’s final moments during the Aug. 7, 2021, traffic stop. Several onlookers, including members of French’s family, wept in court as those videos played.

Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Clark in his opening statements apologized to jurors for what they would have to see and hear in that body camera footage, but said it would give them “a front-row seat to the absolute carnage this defendant unleashed on those police officers.”

French was driving on patrol just after 9 p.m. that evening with fellow officers Carlos Yanez and Joshua Blas when they pulled over an SUV with expired license plates that was driven by Morgan’s brother, Eric Morgan, near 63rd Street and Bell Avenue.

French’s body camera showed her walk to the driver’s side of the vehicle and speak with Eric Morgan, while Yanez and Blas spoke to a woman in the front passenger seat and Emonte Morgan, who was in the backseat.

After Yanez spotted an open alcohol container in the vehicle, all three occupants were asked to get out. As he did, Emonte Morgan continued holding a drink cup and a phone in his hand, but after he refused to set those items down, Yanez and Blas began struggling with him.

As this happened, Eric Morgan tried to run and was chased by Blas, while Yanez continued struggling with Emonte Morgan at the back of the SUV. They moved toward the front passenger seat of the vehicle as French came around the back of the vehicle to assist. As she did, Morgan allegedly fired shots, striking both French and Yanez.

Morgan can then be heard on video reloading his firearm, according to Stevens.

“He intended to kill every police officer that was at the scene,” she told jurors.

Chicago police Officer Ella French (@TomAhernCPD / Twitter)Chicago police Officer Ella French (@TomAhernCPD / Twitter)

Blas, who had chased down Eric Morgan, realized something was wrong and ran back to the vehicles. He testified that he exchanged gunfire with Emonte Morgan, who was struck and fled on foot.

Defense attorney Jennifer Hodel argued that while Blas did fire shots at Emonte Morgan, Morgan did not return fire himself, telling jurors there is no muzzle flash visible from Morgan on the video of their encounter.

Yanez testified last week he was shot five times in his head, neck and shoulder, and showed jurors the scars left from each of those wounds. He wiped away tears and repeatedly looked away from the screen as he rewatched footage of the shooting while on the witness stand.

While the body camera footage was played numerous times throughout the trial, it has not yet been released publicly.

The 42-year-old said he was paralyzed after the shooting and lost his right eye. He still has bullet fragments embedded in his shoulder and neck because they are too dangerous to remove, he testified.

“It’s a miracle that he’s alive,” Stevens said.

Yanez — who said he has no memory of the shooting or the moments leading up to it — has recovered enough to be able to walk without assistance. But he is no longer able to work as a police officer due to his injuries.

“We are incredibly gratified by the jury’s verdict today,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said, “but it is difficult to feel anything other than sadness about the senseless murder of a Chicago police officer killed in the line of duty.”

Foxx said true justice would be French continuing to live her life and Yanez continuing to live without his injuries.

Several members of French’s family left the courtroom as autopsy photos of French’s body were shown to jurors Tuesday morning.

Emily Hansen, an assistant medical examiner who conducted French’s autopsy the day after the shooting, testified that she recovered a bullet, which had entered through the lower left side of the back of French’s head.

Hansen testified French’s cause of death was that gunshot wound to the head, and that her manner of death was “homicide.” Hansen was the only witness called Tuesday before prosecutors rested their case.

Defense attorneys on Tuesday argued that jurors should be allowed to consider convicting Emonte Morgan on a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. Hodel argued that Morgan didn’t intend to fire the weapon, but told jurors that the gun discharged accidentally as he attempted to throw it away and that Morgan had been shot in the arm during his struggle with Yanez.

“In the course of trying to get that gun out of his waistband and try to toss it into the car,” Hodel said in her closing arguments, “the gun starts going off.”

But prosecutors said Morgan was instead shot by Blas moments later, and that Morgan’s decision to pull out his firearm and fire shots at French and Yanez were “intentional” acts, not involuntary ones.

“The only person that was armed with a gun, that had a gun in their hand, was this defendant,” Stevens said Tuesday.

Cook County Judge Ursula Walowski ultimately sided with prosecutors and denied the defense’s request.

Walowski’s fifth-floor courtroom was routinely packed with police officers throughout the trial showing support for French, Yanez and their families.

While they were allowed to wear their CPD uniforms, Walowski admonished Morgan’s mother, Evalena Flores, for posting flyers outside the courthouse or wearing a shirt with a slogan calling for justice for her son.

“I do not put up with anyone trying to influence this jury in any way,” Walowski told Flores just before opening statements. “I expect that you will conduct yourself properly.”

Flores on Tuesday called the case against her son “probably the biggest cover up in Chicago history,” claiming the prosecution has been unfair and the video evidence didn’t show exactly what happened.

Eric Morgan accepted a plea deal last fall and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Jamel Danzy, who pleaded guilty in federal court to straw purchasing the firearm allegedly used to kill French, was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors