A 24-year-old man who died in a May 19 shootout with Champaign police was formerly a resident of Kankakee.
Darion Lafayette was shot and killed just after 3:20 a.m. in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Champaign during an encounter with two police officers who were responding to a domestic disturbance call. After police released video of the incident this week, the family that helped raise Lafayette in Kankakee is seeking answers.
The two Champaign police officers — Chris Oberheim and Jeffrey Creel — were also shot during the exchange of gunfire. Oberheim, 44, suffered three gunshot wounds — one in the torso, one in the neck and one in the head — and died later that day at a Champaign hospital.
Lafayette and Creel were both struck by bullets three times. Creel is recovering from his injuries.
On May 27, Illinois State Police made video of the May 19 shooting available to the public. The released videos are taken from surveillance cameras at the apartment complex and the two officers’ body cameras.
The video shows Lafayette exit the building and get into a parked car. It then shows the two officers approaching the vehicle. Creel asked Lafayette to step out of the vehicle, and Lafayette responded that he was just sitting in his car. Creel’s body cam video showed Lafayette was holding a cellphone in his left hand. His right arm was down to his right side, according to ISP.
As Creel and Lafayette engaged in a struggle, gunshots were heard and Oberheim can be seen falling to the ground. Several more gunshots/flashes can be seen on the complex’s security video and both officers’ body cameras record the sound of multiple gunshots.
The last four were fired by Creel at Lafayette who had gotten up and was near Oberheim, according to the preliminary report.
In a news conference following the release of the videos, Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said the preliminary investigation indicated Officer Creel’s use of deadly force was legally justified and appropriate.
The families of Oberheim and Lafayette were given the opportunity to view the video prior to their public release. Among those viewing the footage was Thomas Trowell, Lafayette’s uncle. Trowell contacted the Daily Journal after viewing the video to express his and other family members’ concerns about the incident. He said he could not tell from the provided video that his nephew had a gun in his right hand.
He did say though that Lafayette was known to carry a gun for protection as he had recently been threatened by unknown individuals at least three times. Having been convicted of a felony in 2018, Lafayette carrying a weapon would have been a violation of state statute. Felons are not allowed to own or possess a firearm.
Lafayette was also charged in 2019 with aggravated domestic battery, pleading guilty to a lesser bail bond violation. The victim of the alleged battery was a resident of the apartment complex where the May 19 shooting occurred.
Trowell said the woman was a source of problems for his nephew.
Lafayette moved to Kankakee to live with family when he was 9 after his mother died of cancer. Trowell and his ex-wife helped raise him. Trowell said he did not recall Lafayette getting into trouble while living here.
Lafayette moved to Champaign six years ago, and “Things were turning in his favor,” Trowell said.
Trowell said the family has contacted a lawyer regarding the police-action shooting.
“All we want are answers,” he said. “There was an initial report. We don’t want people to rush to judgment for all who were involved. We hurt for those officers and their families, too.”
Funeral services for Lafayette are scheduled for Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. at Jones Funeral Home in Kankakee, according to Trowell.