The Chicago police officer who was shot and killed Aug. 7 grew up in the Landmark area, attending school in both Riverside and Brookfield.
Ella French, 29, was killed Saturday night after being one of three Chicago police officers who stopped a car around 9 p.m. near 63rd Street and Bell Avenue in the West Englewood neighborhood of the city.
A passenger in the car that was stopped by French and two other officers shot and killed French and gravely wounded another officer. French became a Chicago police officer in April of 2018.
The alleged shooter and the two others in the vehicle at the time of the shooting are in custody. Charges are pending.
French attended St. Mary School in Riverside through fifth grade and then attended S.E. Gross Middle School in Brookfield for sixth, seventh and eighth grade, graduating in 2005.
S.E. Gross Middle School Principal Ryan Evans was a student teacher at the school when French was a student there.
“My recollection, and some of the staff that I’ve talked to, was that she was just energetic, nice, kind of quintessential middle school student, just finding herself and was well liked,” Evans said.
Two of her former teachers at S.E. Gross Middle School recall French as a talkative, enthusiastic and happy student.
“She was very accepting of everyone, she was kind to everyone regardless of who you were, what class you were in, she would talk to anybody about anything,” said Debby Cornacchia who was French’s seventh-grade science teacher. “Very good natured, she had a huge heart. Loved to talk; seemed like she enjoyed school. She always made me laugh. That is a for sure. Whether she intended to or not she always made me laugh, was a joy to have in class.”
Lori Glazik, French’s homeroom teacher and eighth-grade science teacher at S.E. Gross, has similar memories of French.
“I remember her as a happy, silly and very sweet student who did not have a mean bone in her body,” Glazik said in a text message to the Landmark. “She would always tell me stories about her weekend and would make me laugh.”
French did not attend Riverside-Brookfield High School. She reportedly graduated from Downers Grove North High School in 2009.
While an elementary school student at St. Mary School in Riverside, French lived in Berwyn and was a member of the school’s Brownie troop. Co-troop leader Mary Welch has fond memories of her.
“She participated in a lot of things and she was always compassionate,” Welch told the Landmark. “I think most of the girls in our Brownie Girl Scout troop were very close. She was very caring for other people, so it doesn’t surprise that she became a police officer, though I would have never guessed. I only found out from the news.
“She definitely had a servant’s heart and she was compassionate and considerate and always willing to participate.”
Welch took her Brownies on many overnight trips and French once slept over at the Welch’s home.
“We hung out at the Scout Cabin a lot,” Welch said.
French was the first female Chicago police officer to be killed in the line of duty in 33 years. She is survived by her brother, Andrew, and her mother. Funeral arrangements are pending.
This story has been updated.