Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stunned Chicago Tuesday morning with an announcement that he will not seek re-election. The surprise came the day before the expected start of the murder trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Those three names — Emanuel, McDonald, and Van Dyke — have been inexorably linked since a judge forced the Emanuel administration to release a police dashcam video of the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting.
This episode is part of 16 Shots, a podcast first released in 2018 about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, the trial of Officer Jason Van Dyke, and the troubled relationship between African-Americans and the Chicago Police Department. To hear all the episodes, subscribe on Pocket Casts, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
The mayor didn’t reference McDonald or Van Dyke when he revealed he wouldn’t seek a third term, but his announcement came at nearly the same time as two other developments in the high-profile case unfolded on the city’s Southwest Side.
McDonald’s great uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, held a press conference Tuesday morning to ask for peace before, during, and after the trial.
Van Dyke was in a crowded courtroom, where Judge Vincent Gaughan announced that potential jurors will fill out a questionnaire in private on Wednesday.
As news of #Emanuel not seeking third term spreads, a sudden silence among reporters here during a recess at the last #JasonVanDyke pretrial hearing. I wonder to what extent the upcoming murder and conspiracy trials in #LaquanMcDonald‘s death factored into the mayor’s decision.— Chip Mitchell (@ChipMitchell1) September 4, 2018
The video, which shows the white officer shooting a black teen carrying a small knife, was released in November 2015 — thirteen months after the shooting. Emanuel has since fired his top cop, increased the use of police body cameras, and retooled the independent agency that investigates all officer shootings.
But residents and political foes have been highly critical of how Emanuel handled the shooting.
The mayor said he knew little about McDonald’s death for months, but records show his office was notified within hours and communicated about it with several city agencies. Emanuel’s administration eventually paid McDonald’s family $5 million.
Emanuel also initially resisted an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which eventually found that the city’s police officers are poorly trained and misconduct investigations are often biased.
Here’s a recap of more key moments in Emanuel’s tumultuous history with the city’s police department and reform efforts.
Dec. 8, 2014: The head of the city’s law department emails members of Emanuel’s administration about the police dashcam video.
Nov. 24, 2015: City officials release the video. Before attending a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, Emanuel issues a statement that says Van Dyke’s actions “are in no way a reflection of the dedication and professionalism that our police officers exemplify every day and that our residents expect throughout our city.”
Dec. 1, 2015: After days of protests, Emanuel fires police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
Dec. 2, 2015: Emanuel says he is against a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the Chicago Police Department. He changes course a day later.
Dec. 9, 2015: Emanuel tells City Council that a “code of silence” exists within the police department.
March 28, 2016: Emanuel promotes Eddie Johnson to CPD superintendent. Johnson didn’t apply for the job and wasn’t one of the candidates recommended by the police board.
Sept. 21, 2016: Emanuel announces the police department will add 970 new sworn personnel by the end of 2018.
Oct. 5, 2016: The City Council approves a plan to overhaul the department tasked with investigating all police shootings.
Aug. 29, 2017: Emanuel says he will embrace federal monitoring of police reform. The announcement comes after a lawsuit by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to force the reforms outlined by the Justice Department.