June 10, 2023
Across The Nation

1 After Another, Chicago Police Videos Made Public

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CHICAGO (AP) — Since dashcam footage showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times was made public, city officials have released a series of videos showing police encounters with the public.

Here is a snapshot of the videos released so far and the one that could soon join them:

Two days before Thanksgiving, after being ordered to do so by a judge, the city released a video that shows Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on the night of Oct. 20, 2014. The video immediately set off protests. Many residents, already suspicious that the circumstances of the shooting had been covered up by police, grew even more skeptical when the city released other squad car dashcam videos from the scene that, like the first, lacked audio. The department has yet to fully explain why.

The video also highlighted inconsistencies with police reports from the incident. Officers who saw Van Dyke shoot McDonald portrayed the teen as far more menacing than he appeared on-screen.

Officials fought in court for months to keep the footage from being released, efforts that coincided with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaign, during which the mayor was seeking African-American votes in a tight race.

Now, the Department of Justice is investigating the circumstances of the shooting, as well as the police department as a whole.

Eight days before McDonald was killed, Officer George Hernandez fatally shot 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III. Johnson’s family stepped up their pleas to have the squad car video made public after the release of the McDonald footage.

On Monday, during a lengthy news conference in which she outlined why Hernandez was justified in shooting Johnson in the back, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez released the video. Alvarez, who was facing criticism for taking more than a year to bring charges against Van Dyke, also released digital images that show Johnson was carrying something in his hand. Police say it was the gun recovered near his body.

To make her case that Hernandez could have been in fear for his life and the life of his fellow officers, she showed a video from a separate case in which a man running from police fired a gun behind him without looking, striking a pursuing officer.

The attorney for the Johnson family said the prosecutors’ investigation was a “joke.” The family has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that Johnson was not armed.

Also on Monday, the city released a 2012 video of officers using a stun gun and dragging Philip Coleman, a 38-year-old who had been taken into custody after allegedly attacking his mother. The video shows six officers – several of whom appear to be black – entering Coleman’s cell. One fires the stun gun, and an officer then drags Coleman, who was black, out by his handcuffed wrists.

Officials have said Coleman died later at a hospital after a reaction to an anti-psychotic drug. But his family said it was obvious from the start that he was mentally ill and would still be alive if he had been taken to a hospital instead of jail.

The family, which has filed a lawsuit, was livid after the release of the video, saying that nobody from the city warned them it was to be made public in response to a media outlet’s public records request.

While a police review board found the officers’ actions justified, Emanuel said Monday that he didn’t see how the treatment of Coleman “could possibly be acceptable.”

On Tuesday, the new head of the review board said she was reopening the investigation into Coleman’s case.

Seventeen-year-old Cedric Chatman was a suspect in a car theft when he was killed on Jan. 7, 2013, by police. Officers said they believed he was reaching for a gun. But the gun turned out to be a smart-phone box. Chatman’s family sued the city and demanded that the video be made public.

Despite having pledged more transparency, the city is fighting the release of that footage. City attorneys are employing arguments similar to the ones they used in opposing the McDonald video’s release: that it could prejudice would-be jurors if the case goes to trial. City attorneys didn’t comment after a Wednesday hearing in the civil case.

The federal judge said he’d decide Jan. 14 whether to order the city to release the footage.

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