By all accounts, the death of Abnerd Joseph is hard to understand. Or rather, the events leading up to Joseph’s death are still puzzling. Why did the assistant principal at Intrinsic School start pounding on his neighbors’ doors last Thursday evening in the Chicago high-rise where he lived? Why did he allegedly assault another tenant and a doorman who came to investigate the disturbance? Most importantly, why did he try to attack an armed homeowner who had warned Joseph that he had a gun?
While Chicago police say the investigation into Joseph’s death is still ongoing, the shooter has not been arrested at this point, and all signs are pointing to this being a pretty clear-cut case of self-defense, as painful as that might be for Joseph’s family and loved ones.
The shooting happened about 7:30 p.m. Thursday on the 48th floor of the 60 E. Monroe St. building. A police report said Abnerd Joseph, who lived several stories below, was “wildly” knocking on doors and yelling “incoherently” when four tenants and a doorman went to check what was going on.
According to the report, Joseph allegedly struck a doorman and knocked one tenant to the ground before another tenant, who lived on the same floor as Joseph, warned Joseph that he had a weapon. Joseph, who was unarmed, was said to have charged the man, who then shot him several times, killing him.
Joseph, 32, was shot in the chest, abdomen, flank, an armpit and a ring finger, according to a police report. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:11 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy Friday determined he died of multiple gunshot wounds and his death was ruled a homicide, the office said.
The tenant who fired the shots called 911 and waited for police to arrive, according to the report. That man, who has a concealed-carry license, was placed into police custody and subsequently released, officials said.
In an interview Sunday, Jay Joseph said his brother had been on the phone with a friend moments before the shooting, and he was “distressed.” Jay Joseph said his brother was in tears and had told the friend to record what was going on before the phone was dropped and sounds became faint.
Jay Joseph said tenants told him his brother was in some form of distress and asking for help when he was knocking on doors.
Jay Joseph also said investigators confirmed the existence of audio and video recordings of the incident, but said they wouldn’t be released while the investigation was ongoing.
… Jay Joseph said his brother had never mentioned any issues with neighbors, but believes the fact that the two men lived so close together played a role in the shooting.
“We’re hopeful that they’ll relook into this case and charge this man,” Jay Joseph said. “What he did was unnecessary, he didn’t have to kill my brother … He could’ve stayed in his unit if he feared for his life.”
It may very well have been the case that Abnerd Joseph didn’t have any prior issues with any of his neighbors, at least until he began pounding on their doors and assaulted the folks who came out to check on him. As for Jay Joseph’s contention that the armed citizen should have simply stayed put behind his closed door if he feared for his life, that ignores the fact that the man likely wasn’t in fear until he was actually confronted by a disturbed individual who allegedly tried to assault him after going after two other people. When he opened the door to his apartment he was likely simply responding to the commotion in the hallway without a full understanding of what was going on. He had his firearm with him if necessary, but that doesn’t mean that he was intent on using it from the get-go.
The truth is that if Abnerd Joseph had been the one to remain put in his apartment, he never would have been shot because he never would have posed a threat to others. We don’t know what Joseph was allegedly “distressed” about, but once he took himself beyond the confines of his own home and began assaulting those who’d responded to his outburst he put himself at risk of a lethal response.
Joseph’s death is tragic, but that doesn’t mean that a crime was committed by anyone other than himself last Thursday evening. If the evidence and eyewitness statements didn’t match the armed citizen’s story, I have no doubt that the Chicago police would have arrested him on the spot, but the fact that he’s not been taken into custody while the investigation plays out is a strong sign that, so far anyway, there’s no reason for authorities to doubt the gun owner’s account of what happened.