A Cook County judge has told the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to publicize dashcam footage showing the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald from October 20, 2014. McDonald was apprehended by cops after he was accused of threatening a civilian with a knife and attempting to break into cars. The teen was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
The judge required that the video be released by Nov. 25. The city of Chicago has announced that it will not appeal, though it had previously requested that the release date of the video be delayed. The city had requested that the release of the video be pushed back because of ongoing investigations surrounding McDonald’s death. The officer’s attorney, Dan Herbert, also says he’s worried about the safety of his client. He says that someone who doesn’t know the full context of the shooting may try to harm Van Dyke and further derail the case. Van Dyke was the only one who shot McDonald, so he is the only defendant in the case.
Initially, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was strongly against releasing the video and cited the same concerns as the CPD.
“You have, obviously a [federal] investigation,” Emanuel said. “And you never release a video while that investigation is going on. There’s an appropriate way to handle when videos become public and that procedure will be followed.”
However today, Emanuel flipped his stance once the judge made his ruling.
“Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents. In this case unfortunately, it appears an officer violated that trust at every level. As a result, the city’s Independent Police Review Authority promptly sent this case and the evidence to state and federal prosecutors who have been investigating it for almost a year. In accordance with the judge’s ruling the city will release the video by November 25, which we hope will provide prosecutors time to expeditiously bring their investigation to a conclusion so Chicago can begin to heal.”
The investigations are being led by federal agents, so state law states that the CPD’s attempt to use the investigation as a reason to conceal the video is invalid. The judge’s decision to make the footage public comes after freelance journalist Brandon Smith filed a Freedom of Information Act request.
Earlier this year, the City Council came to a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family before the lawsuit was filed.
On the night that McDonald was murdered, cops were responding to a call that a man had been waving a knife to threaten civilians and possibly break into cars in the Archer Heights neighborhood. Officers found McDonald near the scene holding a knife; McDonald reportedly ignored the officers’ orders to put down the knife and began walking away. The cops tailed the teenager on foot and called for back up to get another cop with a Taser onto the scene to subdue McDonald. Another squad car then followed the teen and the officers as they walked on the street; as he was being tailed, McDonald allegedly punctured one of the cop cars’ tires and threw his knife at the windshield.
Then after another cop car arrived on the scene, blocking McDonald’s path. Two other cops approached McDonald with their guns drawn; Van Dyke then opened fire, killing McDonald on camera. Van Dyke says McDonald was moving towards him and posed a threat, prompting him to shoot.
However, a report from The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe says that the footage shows the teen visibly walking away. It’s also alleged that the footage may have been tampered with by the CPD, as 86 minutes of the events leading up to McDonald’s shooting death is gone, along with the audio of the shooting itself. One witness also says that 13 shots were fired after the teen was already down.
“If it is released, I don’t believe there will be any riot as the mayor fears,” said former Chicago police commander and Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) whistleblower Lorenzo Davis to the Glawe. “But I do believe it will prompt another increase in calls for police accountability.”
Analysts following the case are now question the CPD in why the police didn’t wait for the Tasers to arrive during the confrontation, why they shot McDonald so many times and why they had to kill McDonald in the first place.