A judge said Thursday that the Chicago Police Department has less than a week to release a video of an officer fatally shooting a black teenager and refused to give the department more time pending a possible appeal of his decision.
The video is graphic, according to some who have seen it: The 17-year-old wielding a small knife is walking away from police when one officer opens fire, shooting the teen 16 times.
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the department to publicly release the video by next Wednesday. The attorney for the department immediately asked for more time before the release so the city could decide whether to appeal the judge’s decision. But Valderrama returned a short time later and said the release order would stand.
He said the Police Department had no legal right to withhold the video because other agencies are the ones investigating the shooting.
Police had refused to release footage of the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. Investigators have said McDonald refused to drop a knife when officers confronted him while responding to a call about a person walking down a street with a knife on the city’s southwest side. The shooting was recorded on police dash camera video, but city attorneys said it wouldn’t be released until a federal grand jury finishes its investigation of the shooting.
McDonald’s mother also doesn’t want the video released. She fears it could lead to violent protests like those in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, after police-involved deaths of black residents in those cities, according to the family’s attorney, Jeffrey Neslund.
Neslund, who has seen the video, said the footage shows McDonald was armed with a small knife. But he said it also clearly shows that the teen was walking away from police when a white officer, who was about 15 feet away, opened fire.
“You see the officer begin to shoot, and he (McDonald) spins and falls to the ground,” he said. Neslund said the officer then “continues to shoot him.”
The Chicago City Council took the unusual step in April of approving a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, even though the family hadn’t filed a lawsuit, after being advised to do so by a city attorney who had seen the video.
An autopsy report showed that McDonald was shot 16 times, including at least twice in his back. The report also said PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, was found in McDonald’s system.
The officer has been identified by his attorney and others as Jason Van Dyke. Police have said he was stripped of his police powers and assigned to desk duty after the shooting. Police have released few details about the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation, but the city’s attorney has said McDonald was walking away from police when he was shot.
Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, said that in this “day and age” there is the possibility that someone could try to harm Van Dyke because they do not understand the context in which the shooting occurred. But Herbert braced for the judge to order the video released.
“I don’t see any legal basis to suppress the video,” he said Thursday morning.
After reviewing Smith’s request, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office asked police in a strongly worded letter earlier this month to release the video. The letter said the Police Department was using “unsubstantiated” claims in arguing that releasing the footage would hinder an investigation or deprive anyone of a fair trial. The letter said police had no legal right to withhold the video because another agency, the Independent Police Review Authority, was conducting the investigation.
Messages left for a Police Department spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, weren’t immediately returned Thursday. A spokesman for the city’s law department, Bill McCaffrey, said the office would release a statement later Thursday.
— via The Associated Press