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WATCH NOW: 'He was treated like an animal,' sister of Jamal Williams calls for justice in wake of brother's death
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WATCH NOW: 'He was treated like an animal,' sister of Jamal Williams calls for justice in wake of brother's death

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MUNSTER — Protesters at Community Hospital in Munster called for justice for Jamal Williams, a former T.F. North football player who was shot and killed by a security guard after being admitted as a psychiatric patient last week, saying he had been discriminated against and "treated like an animal."

More than 100 people gathered at Community Park across the street from the hospital on Thursday while police observed the peaceful rally and vigil at a distance. Demonstrators had signs and T-shirts reading "Black Lives Matter," "Justice for Jamal," “Do no harm,” “Get guns out of hospitals” and “Black Mental Health Matters."

After being instructed to keep it peaceful, refrain from littering and watch for cars, protesters marched around the bike trail in the park, chanting, “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name: Jamal Williams.” Demonstrators filed down Calumet Avenue to the Munster branch of the Lake County Public Library, chanting, “Heal, not kill. We need to heal."

Family members wore shirts to the rally with sayings such as, “See you momma, I touched down in heaven” and “Can you pray for world peace with us?” Relatives displayed many pictures of Williams in his T.F. North football uniform.

Williams’ sister, Imani Williams, delivered a tearful speech.

"My brother came to Munster Community Hospital willing and ready to receive help but instead was met with an overzealous security guard who chose to shoot him in the head," Imani Williams said. "There were no warning shots. There were no medical professionals there to sedate him. My brother's life was taken without a second thought."

Imani Williams said her brother was deeply troubled by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and began to struggle, but hadn’t been angry or aggressive.

Former coach, teammates remember onetime TF North star who was shot, killed at hospital

"Last month several black men and women were wrongfully killed at the hands of police officers and bigots," she said. "Jamal was so hurt by what he had seen. It hurt and confused him even more when some of the people he called friends didn't sympathize with him or even care about what happened to George Floyd. My brother was no fool. He knew as every Black man, women and child knows that George Floyd could have been any one of us. With these new and scary thoughts and flood of emotions, Jamal started to break down and we could see it."

She called for empathy.

"Imagine how scared and alone someone must feel knowing they're born with a target on their back, knowing that you could be jailed or killed for something as simple as selling cigarettes or walking home from the grocery store and then constantly having to explain yourself and prove that your life matters," she said. "I think that would drive anyone insane."

In his final few weeks on earth, Williams called his sister late at night with ideas for how to fix the world. The recent violent deaths of fellow African Americans hung heavy on him, she said.

“My brother came to the hospital for treatment and safety,” Imani Williams said. “Instead, he was treated like an animal.”

She said it was not just a malpractice issue but a civil rights issue.

"If Jamal was a white man he would have been sedated upon arrival," she said. "His behaviors would have been met with proper de-escalation tactics."

Family and friends shared memories at a vigil following the march.

Assaulted nurse recovering; police probe continues in fatal hospital shootings

"I know Jamal all his life. One thing I could say about Jamal is I never saw him angry," said longtime family friend Charmine Dade, whom he called "Auntie." "He always had a smile on his face. ... This was a young man that was raised in a Christian environment. He was trained to do the right thing. He was good young man. He did not deserve what happened to him."

His father, Eric Williams, also teared up while giving a speech, saying his son was afraid at the hospital and had been fearful after the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, as he also liked to go jogging in the morning.

"That boy was perfect," Eric L. Williams said. "If he came off an assembly line he would have been a Mercedes. We put a lot of work in that boy. The finish line is always moving. They say when you grow up all you got to do is eat your vegetables and listen to Hulk Hogan and everything's going to be all right. They tell you to go to church. Check. They tell you to go to school. Check. They tell you to go to work. Check. They tell you don't be a bum. Check.

"And then you never get to where you're trying to get to. You keep doing all these things but never get to be safe. It's almost like they treat Black folks like employees and give us a card for entry, but my ... card keeps not working. We've been doing everything, towing the line, doing everything right."

He said his son was the victim of discrimination.

UPDATE: Retired cop urged partner to shoot as psychiatric patient choked him, prosecutor said

"Look at the history," he said. "Who are we hurting? Who have we been beating up? But our reputation is the all-time worst in the world. When they see us, they go nuts. They don't ask did you graduate? They don't ask if you're a doctor, if you're an engineer, if you're a college graduate." 

He said his son also was discriminated against because of his large stature.

"When they pull you over, especially us large brothers, when we get out of the car, I've never gotten out of the car without seeing the cop's hand on his gun," he said. "I tell them, 'nice pedicure officer.' The thumb's always on the gun. All I can think is 'you have the gun.'"

The Lake County prosecutor's office has said Williams was choking security guard and former Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Askew when fellow security guard and former Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Benny Freeman opened fire, fatally shooting both men. Police said the guards intervened after Williams assaulted a hospital nurse.

 Protesters say Williams was racially profiled by hospital staff and security and treated like an "angry Black man" instead of being peacefully sedated when he went to seek help.
EDITORIAL: Root of violent hospital scene must be addressed; we regret erroneous police report

Protesters called for an investigation into whether the hospital broke its own non-discrimination policy by profiling Williams; that retired police officers not be around psychiatric patients; and accountability for the police officers who put out an initial report that erroneously claimed Williams had reached for Askew's gun and shot him, when it later turned out he was shot by another security guard.

"Why can't the police ever take responsibility for their actions? Why can't they just say they're sorry and that they (messed) up?" Imani Williams said. "Why does you looking out for your own so often result in our demise? How long must we do this song and dance for? Aren't you tired?"

Gallery: National unrest hits Region

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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