Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas said Monday he would give away a contribution his campaign had accepted from a retired city police detective named in the costly civil litigation stemming from the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
Speaking outside an event hosted for him by the police union — which has endorsed him in the Feb. 28 election — Vallas said he was unaware of the $5,000 contribution to his campaign from ex-Chicago Police employee Richard E. Hagen until WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times reported on it last week.
Vallas’s move came as McDonald’s great-uncle Marvin Hunter criticized him for taking the contribution from Hagen and called on him to drop out of the race. Court records show Hagen was named in two settlement agreements prompted by the notorious police shooting of the 17-year-old McDonald in 2014. Those legal cases cost the city a total of $5.1 million.
The Vallas campaign’s spokesperson initially declined to comment on the contribution from Hagen, which was made on June 30, according to campaign finance disclosure reports.
But on Monday, Vallas said the campaign decided to donate the $5,000 from Hagen and an additional $5,000 to Parents for Peace and Justice, an organization in Chicago for mothers of children killed in gun violence.
Vallas said he did not believe Hagen had done anything wrong in the McDonald case but he gave the money to charity because of how the issue could be viewed.
Vallas said he discussed the issue with the city government’s former inspector general Joseph Ferguson, who investigated the police response to the McDonald shooting, and concluded there was “no wrongdoing, no reprimand whatsoever” involving Hagen. Ferguson declined to comment.
But Vallas said, “I nevertheless thought that it might become a controversy. And because of the sensitivity over the issue, I said, ‘Why don’t we transfer this donation?’ And we actually made a second donation to an organization that we’ve been working with that advocates for families who have been the victims of gun violence. And we thought that that was more than satisfactory.”
Vallas balked at issuing a public apology for accepting the contribution from Hagen, as Hunter called on him to do.
“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Vallas said.
To respond to the story by WBEZ and the Sun-Times, Hunter held a news conference Monday outside the pizzeria on the Northwest Side where Vallas was the guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7.
“We’re asking that Mr. Vallas come to the Black community and make a public apology because this is an insult to the Black community at large,” Hunter said. “It is an insult to the American justice system.”
Hunter declined to say whether he was supporting any other candidate in the mayoral race.
“To make Paul Vallas mayor of the city of Chicago will be the equivalent of handing the keys of this city to the FOP,” he said.
McDonald was murdered in October 2014 by officer Jason Van Dyke in the Archer Heights neighborhood. The following year, city officials released dashcam video from a police car that disproved the initial narrative put forth by the department, that McDonald was acting erratically and had lunged at officers with a knife.
Hagen was asked to compile all of the video evidence that was collected and shared it in meetings with police management, who had “no issues with it,” according to the inspector general’s report on the case.
Hagen met routinely with other police officials to review the video evidence that was collected, according to the inspector general’s office. Another detective said “everyone was in agreement with the investigation and the conclusions reached as documented.”
But Hagen was not among 11 police officials whom the inspector general recommended for termination for making false statements in the case. He retired from the Chicago Police three years ago, after 20 years on the force.
Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Tom Schuba contributed to this story.