Despite pleas from a victim’s family, and refusals by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago judge has ordered police in the Windy City to release a dash-cam video that supposedly shows the alleged fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of police officers. The video is expected to be released on Tuesday. Laquan was shot 16 times, according to the autopsy.
According to Laquan’s family, the teen walking away from police when fired upon. Also, family members contends that he may have been shot while on the ground. However, police claim that Laquan was acting erratically at the time of shooting and was hefting a four-inch knife. They also claim that the teen disobeyed police orders. An autopsy showed that he had traces of the drug PCP in his system.
The dash-cam video has been demanded by media, including the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune, which had filed several requests for a release of the material So far, both police and city officials and Democratic mayor Emanuel have refused to share the video. They cite the fact that there is an ongoing federal investigation into the killing, and that airing it could impede a fair trial later.
Laquan McDonald autopsy diagram
On November 19, Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered police to release the video, while llinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also ruled separately against the police in a finding that they did not prove how releasing the footage would impede a fair trial.
As for Laquan’s family members, their concern is growing. Laquan’s mother is worried that releasing the video will cause civil unrest of the sort that rocked Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Reports says that the video is graphic. Video showing white officers shooting a black teen may unsettle an already fragile situation in the nation, which is still reeling from the riots and demonstrations in Ferguson MO and Baltimore MD.
Chicago has already approved a $5 million payment to Laquan's family, even before the family filed a lawsuit.
Laquan lunged at law officer Jason Van Dyke with a knife, say representatives of the police union. The officer who shot Laquan has not yet been charged in the shooting. “The video is graphic, disturbing and difficult to watch, as any video of a man being shot to death would be," said Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, to the Chicago Tribune. According to Attorney Herbert, young McDonald "punctured a tire on a police car, and it was at that point that Van Dyke approached him. Officer Van Dyke was aware that McDonald had ignored numerous police orders to drop the knife.
Herbert defended his client’s actions, saying that his client "believed he was in fear for an attack and for the safety of anyone else on the scene." About his client Van Dyke, Herbert said “He's scared to death, but more than himself he's scared for his wife, his two kids." Herbert added, "He knows in his heart of hearts that his actions were appropriate." He is expected to be charged with the shooting on November 24.
Some community leaders are calling for calm in advance of the video's release. "Chicago is on the tipping point," the Rev. Roosevelt Watkins said, according to CNN affiliate WLS. "We could be just like Ferguson."
For his part, Mayor Emanuel was dismissive of Van Dyke's claims of innocence. In a statement released on November 19, Emanuel said "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."
Emanuel met with community leaders on November 23, in anticipation of the video's release. They included business people, aldermen, and pastors. This weekend, black community leaders called for calm. All on-duty Chicago police officers have been ordered to wear their uniforms as of November 24, according to the police. Officers who have days off this week will not be called into work.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Rev. Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church on the southside of Chicago, "I've been to Ferguson. I've been to Baltimore. I've seen the riots and I know that the potential that it has here in Chicago to be more harming than Ferguson and Baltimore." He added, "I'm hoping that we will be able to judge for ourselves the damage that it could potentially have on our community." Brooks said that he hopes the Chicago Police Department will hire more black officers.
Rev. Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest who leads St. Sabina Catholic parish in Chicago, called on his congregation to shut down Black Friday on Michigan Avenue - a major shopping and tourist location - on November 27. In his Sunday homily, Pfleger said "If you really want to make a statement: Black Friday is coming up. The number one business day," adding, "Don’t shop on Black Friday and go down to Michigan Avenue and sit down in the street and block the street on Michigan Avenue with civil disobedience peacefully, and say 'business as usual can’t go on while our children are dying.'"