CHICAGO (AP) — A series of videos released Friday shows Chicago police firing repeatedly at a car as it careens down the street, then handcuffing the mortally wounded black teenager who was at wheel after a chaotic foot chase through a residential neighborhood.
None of the nine videos show the suspected car thief getting shot in the back. Moments later, when Paul O’Neal is on the ground, blood soaking through his T-shirt, an officer can be heard angrily accusing him of firing at police. Another officer asks, “They shot at us too, right?” suggesting police believed they had been fired upon and that they did not know how many suspects were present.
No gun was recovered from the scene.
It was the city’s first release of video of a fatal police shooting under a new policy that calls for such material to be made public within 60 days. That and other policy changes represent an effort to restore public confidence in the department after video released last year showed a black teenager named Laquan McDonald getting shot 16 times by a white officer. That video sparked protests and led to the ouster of the former police superintendent.
The police department invited some community leaders to see the videos before they were made public, including Pastor Jedediah Brown.
“You could see clearly, nobody in that room felt good,” he said. “It was very, very, very, very, very terrifying to watch.”
On the latest body camera videos, an officer can be heard saying that he shot at the vehicle, explaining, “He almost hit my partner. I (expletive) shot at him.” Another officer who apparently fired his weapon laments that he was going to be on “desk duty for 30 (expletive) days now.”
Before the gunfire broke out, the 18-year-old suspect sideswiped one squad car and then smashed into another.
The moment of the fatal shooting isn’t seen on any of the videos released Friday because the officer’s body camera was not recording at the time, police said.
Ja’Mal Green, a community activist and spokesman for O’Neal’s family, said the family couldn’t stand to watch all of the video footage, but is frustrated by the gaps.
“These cameras should’ve been working at all times, every camera. We should have been able to see the whole incident,” Green said. “But instead, we get to see everything around it.”
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that the department and the police review authority were trying to determine why the body camera was not working. He said it is likely because the officer was unfamiliar with how to properly use the camera he only received or because the camera malfunctioned.
“We don’t believe there was any intentional misconduct with body cameras,” he said.
But for Brown, the footage suggests something else.
“When you look at this video, you hear all of the officers screaming out things that try to create a narrative, automatically,” he said. “Chicago police have learned what to say when they want to get away with, I believe, excessive force and malicious policing.”
Attorney Michael Oppenheimer, who represents O’Neal’s family, said the video showed officers taking “street justice into their own hands.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson stripped three of the officers of their police powers after a preliminary determination concluded they had violated department policy in the July 28 shooting. Authorities have not said specifically what policy was broken.
Sharon Fairley, the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency that investigates Chicago police misconduct, also called the footage “shocking and disturbing.”
The president of the Chicago police union complained about the release of the videos, saying it is unfair to the officers, could turn public opinion against them and even jeopardize their own safety.
“These guys live in the neighborhoods. Their kids go to school, and their photos will be all over the internet,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they did anything wrong, but someone may see it and perceive the officers should not have taken the actions they did.”
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