RANTOUL — Community members met Wednesday night in Rantoul to commemorate the life of 21-year-old Azaan Lee after he was shot and killed by police one year ago.
Rantoul Police Officer Jose Aceves shot and killed Azaan Lee while investigating a stolen car. Aceves resigned just over a month after the shooting, according to documents obtained by Invisible Institute and Illinois Public Media.
Just four months later, Rantoul officer Jerry King shot and killed 18-year-old Jordan Richardson, spurring protests against the department’s use of force in both incidents.
“The last thing we want is people to forget about Azaan [and] forget about Jordan,” Urbana resident and local activist Derek Briles said at the vigil. “We’re gonna make sure they don’t — one way or another.”
Briles joined other local activists in filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s office alleging Lee’s civil rights were violated when he was searched and killed. They filed a similar complaint for the death of Jordan Richardson, Briles said.
Activists like Briles have been pushing for independent, third-party investigations into both incidents after the Rantoul Police Department absolved both officers who killed Lee and Richardson of wrongdoing in its internal investigations.
“There’s ample evidence that [the police] violated their Fourth Amendment rights, of racial profiling, of just violating their own policies and their own procedures,” Briles said. “It’s there, we know it’s there. So we’ll keep fighting for that.”
A new investigation released this week by IPM News and the Invisible Institute revealed the Rantoul Police Department did not implement any of the department-wide trainings its internal Use of Force Review Board recommended after RPD’s first fatal police shootings.
“I just felt like we need justice for his family — for us,” Lee’s aunt Allison Anderson said.
“Why’d you have to take our babies?” Lee’s grandmother Debra Turner asked while crying at the vigil. “All I want is justice.”
Turner said both Lee and Richardson were great kids who were taken too soon, and she’d like to see justice for both of them. At the vigil, Turner released balloons in honor of Azaan Lee at the intersection in Rantoul where he was killed.
“If you would have known my grandson, you would have known he was a great person,” she said.
Farrah Anderson is a journalist and student at the University of Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.