MORRIS, Ill. — Family and friends are “outraged” after a mother of three was shot and killed by Morris police responding to a mental health call in late September. WGN News obtained the body cam footage of the incident.
It had been nine days since Alivia Schwab, 40, transitioned out of Bourbonnais Terrace, a mental health facility on Sept. 29.
The mother who “lived for her kids” had been battling schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder for several years, according to family and friends. That morning while at her new apartment, 911 was called after Schwab informed a case manager in a phone call that she had a knife and was going to hurt herself. That information was relayed to the 911 center, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
The case manager stayed on the phone with Schwab as police were dispatched to the complex in the 1800 block of Anne Lane. Two officers arrived at the scene at around 10:53 a.m.
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The officer who ended up firing their service weapon initially told the other officer to “go non-lethal,” according to body cam footage and the state’s attorney’s office.
Schwab then appears from the front door with what officials said was a phone in her right hand and a knife in her left hand. Footage shows Schwab walking toward the shooting officer while still holding the phone and knife while the shooting officer yells “stop” multiple times.
The shooting officer yells “tase her! tase her!” after instructing her to “drop the knife” multiple times.
The state’s attorney’s office said Schwab was eight to ten feet away at the moment shots were fired. Schwab was struck three times, including once to the left eye, according to officials.
Footage appears to show the second officer handcuff Schwab moments after shots were fired.
The two officers involved were not charged and the use of deadly force was deemed justifiable by the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office.
In a report released on Nov. 9 clearing the officers, the state’s attorney’s office said Schwab “aggressively attacked” the officers.
“Given the totality of the circumstances (the officer’s) use of deadly force was legally justifiable. (The officer) reasonably believed his life was in danger as Alivia Schwab quickened her advance on him while brandishing a nine inch chef’s knife and ignoring all lawful commands, ultimately narrowing her distance from the officer to eight to ten feet when he discharged his weapon,” state’s attorney Russ Baker concluded in his report.
In a federal lawsuit filed Friday, the family’s attorney said the incident was “entirely preventable.”
“Today a federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Alivia Schwab’s surviving teenage children. On September 29, 2023, Alivia Schwab was having a mental crisis and reached out for help. The Morris Police Officers who responded to her apartment knew she was having a mental crisis and threatening to harm herself with a knife. Contrary to all de-escalation techniques and Crisis Intervention Training (C.I.T.), (the officer) shot and killed Alivia Schwab while she was still on the phone with her counselor. At no point was a knife ever raised or pointed at the officers. This senseless act of police violence was entirely preventable. We will seek justice for Alivia Schwab and hold those responsible for this excessive and inexcusable act of deadly force. Alivia Schwab is survived by her parents, siblings and three teenage children,” attorney Jeff Neslund said in a statement.
‘Out of the blue’
Her ex-husband and the father of her three children, Brad Schwab, told WGN News she was an “amazing mother.”
He detailed, along with his wife Brandy and others close to Alivia, her road to try to get better.
“She was a PTA mom, she just undoubtedly loved her children,” Schwab said. “She was a very heartfelt woman. She was the type of woman who will always be there for you.”
Her maid of honor, Heather Graves, said the change happened “out of the blue” at around the time Alivia turned 32. For women, schizophrenia tends to onset in the late 20s or early 30s, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Graves met Alivia, both originally from California, in middle school doing theatre.
“She was just someone who saw the good in everyone and always made you feel welcomed,” Graves said. “She stayed over all the time and I used to joke that I didn’t know why she was my friend because she was so put together and sweet and I was the rebellious one.”
Graves said the first sign something was wrong was when Alivia told her she started talking to the television and a “holy Cardinal” spoke to her. Hallucinations and delusions are common symptoms of schizophrenia.
From there, Graves said she supported Schwab over the years as she began treatment for mental illness.
Graves said she’s been devastated since hearing about her death.
“Brad called me and it’s just unbelievable, it’s unbelievable,” Graves said. “She’s so tiny, I don’t even know how anyone could feel mildly threatened by her. She was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.”
Brandy Schwab said she had a special relationship with Alivia after she married Brad in 2020.
“Alivia made it so easy to have that kind of relationship — she was just so kind and sweet,” Brandy recalled. “I went into this marriage knowing that I was not (the kids) mom and I could never take the place of mom. It was always my goal to help Alivia maximize her potential to get back to being the mom they knew.”
Alivia and Brad have three children — Stacie, 13, Nathan, 16 and Nicholas, 18.
“Even though Alivia and I were not together, we wanted to show the kids that were were all a family regardless of the situation,” Brad said.
Nathan has autism and the Schwabs said he doesn’t understand what happened.
“When (Brad) first broke the news, he giggled and so ‘no that’s silly — where’s mommy?” Brandy said. “He picked up my phone and called her several times. I just let him keep calling. We worked with social workers to break the news, they’ve been a tremendous support.”
Family said Nicholas remembers what his mother was like before mental illness.
“It’s hard on him because for the first ten years of his life, he had his mom,” Brandy said. “The last eight years, mental illness stole her life.”
Brad and Brandy said they are “outraged” that the Grundy County state’s attorney described Alivia as “aggressively attacking” the officer in his report.
“From the sounds of it, she did not aggressively attack anybody, the only person that she was maybe a threat to was herself,” the Schwabs told WGN News. “We are outraged at the poor choice of words that the Grundy County state’s attorney has chosen to describe the events of what took place on September 29.”
‘Feel like they hurt your child’
WGN News spoke with Kim Nissen, a nurse who took care of her at Bourbonnais Terrace on a daily basis. Nissen said she wrote a plan of care for her and said that Alivia’s sole focus was getting better.
“There is something about Alivia that is fragile and childlike, she had these big blue eyes and clear beautiful skin,” Nissen said. “You feel like they hurt your child.”
Nissen, who worked at Bourbonnais Terrace for 20 years and is now a school nurse, has been broken up about it and sent Morris police a note that went unanswered.
Executive director Chad Soucy said staff and some residents haven’t fully recovered yet.
“It’s still devastating to everyone here,” he said.
The Schwabs said that Alivia was doing “really well” recently and when her 13-year-old daughter Stacie would experience a positive life moment, her instinct would be to call her mother with the good news — something family said wasn’t always the case due to Alivia’s challenges.
Alivia was able to see her kids twice in the nine days she was living in her apartment, family said.
“(Her apartment) was testament to all the work she had put in in all those years, and we are devastated by this because we are looking forward to her being 20 minutes away and being a mom in the kids’ life” Brandy said.
A GoFundMe has raised over $12,000 at this time.
WGN News has reached out to Morris police for a statement.