Activists and civil rights lawyers are calling the killing of a Chicago teen by a police officer one of the most shocking instances of police brutality. Residents of Chicago, along with many around the country were rocked by the graphic video released by city officials Tuesday evening showing the chilling shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
“The Laquan McDonald shooting is a horrible example of what appears to be a police murder,” said Paul Strauss, Co-director of Litigation at Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “It is one of the most surprising and shocking because there is a video tape of it.”
Though McDonald was killed in October 2014, the video was just released. The official police report said that McDonald, who had PCP in his system at the time of his death, “lunged at” officers with a knife. But the video tells a different story. According to the autopsy report, McDonald was shot 16 times.
Activists say that the officials, on several different levels, were involved in covering up what really happened the night of McDonald’s death. Strauss said even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel deserves some blame for delaying the release of the video.
“We think that the city purposely did not disclose the video and hid it from public view because it suspected it would have an explosive impact and embarrass the city,” Strauss said.
Months after the teen’s death Chicago’s city council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family on the condition that the dashcam video, which family lawyers obtained, would not be released. Freelance journalist Brandon Smith sued the city’s police department to make the video available to the public. It wasn’t until after a judge ordered that the video be released that officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.
“It appears to everybody who has seen that tape that it did not and should not have taken a full year to determine what happened when all the facts were known and there was a clear video to show it,” said Alderman Harold Brookin, a member of Chicago’s Black Caucus.
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is joining with Chicago Urban League and Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition to call for the resignation of police superintendent Garry McCarthy and calling Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to be removed from cases involving police misconduct. They are also calling for the Department of Justice to open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department.
Story and editing by Andrew Fowler
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