Editor's Note: Aldertrack will not publish Thursday or Friday this week. Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday.
Dashcam Video Of Another Police Shooting Held In Court Proceedings
by A.D. Quig & Mike Fourcher – firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Dashcam video of a second October 2014 fatal police shooting is sitting in legal limbo. Two sources that work with the Chicago Police Department, as well as documents from a suit against the Department, and the Department’s response, confirm dash-cam video captured portions of the police shooting of 25-year old Ronald “Ronnieman” Johnson III in the Washington Park neighborhood just eight days before the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
Unlike the McDonald case, the Police Department denied all charges of wrongdoing by the involved officers.
According to a joint motion filed by the city and the Chicago Police Department, the incident happened at about 12:35 a.m. on October 12, 2014 near the intersection of 53rd St. and Martin Luther King Dr.
“Portions of the incident were captured on video by an in-car camera operating in one of the police vehicles on scene,” the motion reads. Like the McDonald footage, this video lacks audio.
Johnson was shot twice and died from his injuries at the University of Chicago Medical Center, court documents show. Johnson’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, filed suit in U.S. District Court 18 days after his death, alleging he was shot “without lawful justification or excuse” with “reckless indifference and disregard for [his] rights.” Attorney Michael Oppenheimer, of Erickson & Oppenheimer, a law firm that specializes in civil rights and criminal defense litigation, is representing Holmes. Oppenheimer previously represented one of the Dixmoor Five, a group of men falsely accused of the rape and murder of a teenage girl.
At the time of the shooting, police were responding to a call of shots fired in the area and saw a man who fit the description of the shooter, according to a preliminary statement from the Chicago Police Department’s Office of News Affairs. When police approached the suspect, he ran away, the release states, "A foot pursuit ensued during which time the offender pointed his weapon in the direction of the pursuing officers. As a result of this action, an officer discharged his weapon striking the offender.”
CPD says it recovered a weapon at the scene of Johnson’s shooting. Holmes’ mother claims Johnson was unarmed, but a filing from her lawyer says a weapon was recovered at the scene. The Police Department filed a response requesting the court dismiss all five counts against the officer.
In May of 2015, Christopher Wallace, Senior Counsel in the city’s Law Department, filed a protective order prohibiting the publication or dissemination of video footage of the shooting until legal proceedings were finished, citing concern Holmes would “release the video footage to the media rather than utilize it strictly for the purposes of this litigation.” The order says the release could taint the jury pool, expose the officer to safety risks, and make it “impossible for the Defendants to obtain a fair trial in this matter”.
The filing argues the video is of relatively low quality, lacking audio, and “paints an incomplete picture,” but “contains graphic footage of a shooting”. The filing said both IPRA and the Cook County State’s Attorney had a copy of the video, and that Oppenheimer also saw it. Judge Edmond Chang denied the release of the video, but didn’t “preclude access to the video through FOIA,” or for Holmes to see it.
On July 1st, Oppenheimer filed a FOIA with CPD requesting the video be released. After not receiving a response, he filed a motion in August in Cook County Circuit Court asking the court to order CPD to release it. The last movement in the case came about two weeks ago, when the City filed to split the case against them from the case against the officer.
Ald. David Moore (17) said he and Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24) asked Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday if there is other dashcam footage of police involved shootings “out there”.
“I specifically asked the mayor if he knew of any videos, and he said not to his knowledge,” Moore said. He plans on submitting the same question in writing to Superintendent Garry McCarthy today.
Aldermen Increase Calls for Superintendent McCarthy’s Resignation; Some Black Community Leaders Demand More
by Mike Fourcher, Claudia Morell & A.D. Quig – firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and its horrific circumstances are adding fuel to a steadily growing fire of anger and discontent with the city’s criminal justice system among Chicago’s Black community, according to African American activists, pastors and aldermen Aldertrack spoke with yesterday.
Politicians and other community leaders wrestled with addressing Chicago’s complex criminal justice problems during community meetings held throughout the day on the city’s South and West Sides. And as the day progressed, those same leaders wondered aloud if the holiday weekend would bring a series of demonstrations that could move the political discourse out of City Hall and into the streets.
Addressing a panel of five South Side Chicago Police commanders at a community meeting at Area South headquarters last night, Bishop Larry Roberts, Sr. said, “I think that when we speak, you all listen. But nothing comes of it.”
“There’s tension in my community with police. I think it’s classism,” Sheryl Johnson, an organizer in Altgeld Gardens, told the assembled commanders.
Community leaders Aldertrack spoke to throughout the day suggest Mayor Rahm Emanuel is politically disconnected from the African American community and claim African American aldermen are complicit with Emanuel’s failures.
“The African American leaders who helped Emanuel get elected, the young people in the city are watching them. We know what they’ve done,” said LaCreshia Birts, an organizer with Black Youth Project 100 and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
“When this kid was executed, why didn’t the Mayor step up there and then?” activist Tio Hardiman, former executive director for CeaseFire, told Aldertrack yesterday afternoon. “He wants the community to cooperate with the police, but the police are not cooperating with the community.”
The Mayor has to “truly own the missteps. That’s how you begin to heal,” says South Side Community organizer Anton Seals, Jr., a former staffer for Cong. Bobby Rush. “There has not been a come to Jesus moment where [he] admits that the policies [he’s] been enacting are harmful.”
Many African American organizers Aldertrack spoke to said McCarthy’s resignation is not enough. They argue the entire culture of the Chicago Police Department needs to change, including new penalties for officers with multiple community complaints, more African Americans in leadership, and an Independent Police Review Board made up of non-Mayoral appointees.
In a late afternoon press conference held yesterday to release the McDonald shooting video, Mayor Emanuel stood next to Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and did not specify who in his administration or what policies need to be changed. Instead, he called for everyone to take responsibility for Chicago’s future.
Mayor Emanuel and Supt. McCarthy said the police officer in question, Jason Van Dyke, was suspended without pay yesterday and stressed his actions were not representative of the entire force.
“The question before all of us: will we use this episode and this moment to build bridges that bring us together as a city? Or will we allow it to become a way that erects barriers that tear us apart as a city?”
According to the "fact sheet" the police department issued alongside the release of the McDonald video, the city kept the footage private because it was entered as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation, and its release could have compromised the case. "As we stated months ago, the City planned to release the video once the investigation concluded," the statement says.
Today, members of the City Council’s Black Caucus will hold a 10:00 a.m. press conference at City Hall to demand more accountability and transparency from the police department, in addition to calling for peaceful protests. Some of those members have repeated their calls for Supt. McCarthy’s resignation or firing, but the Caucus is not united in that call.
“There should be new leadership. There is too much happening and too many incidents that occurred during his watch. We need new ideas,” West Side Alderman and former police officer Chris Taliaferro (29) told Aldertrack.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28) said, “I think the confidence is not where it needs to be,” and CPD needs to revert to more community focused policing, “rather than this win-at-all-costs focus on violence” approach.
Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr. (21) is among those calling for McCarthy’s removal, and said inaction from the Mayor could hurt him in the long run. “Significant blame will fall at [the Mayor’s] feet because he is at the top of the food chain as it relates to this. The mayor will be the ultimate one to fall on the sword if he continues to stick by [McCarthy] and public sentiment continues to grow.”
However, Black Caucus Chair Roderick Sawyer (6) declined to push for McCarthy’s ouster, telling the Sun Times yesterday, “I’m not going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ I will defer [to my colleagues]. Everything is fluid now.”
During Council budget hearings last month, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5), Budget Chair Carrie Austin (34) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9), who earlier called for McCarthy’s resignation, confronted him about gun violence and a lack of trust between CPD and Black communities.
“What’s changed?” Ald. Hairston asked rhetorically when recalling last month’s budget hearings to Aldertrack yesterday. “[McCarthy’s] still there, and this is just more of a reason why he should be gone.”
The Independent Police Review Authority should also be subject to closer scrutiny, Hairston said, as should whether CPD is heeding their recommendations.
Part of the blame in the McDonald case should also fall on Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, some aldermen said.
When asked during a press conference yesterday why her office waited to charge the shooting officer with first degree murder a day before the court-ordered release of the dashcam video, Alvarez explained that cases involving police misconduct are complex, and her decision was made “weeks ago”.
“If she came to that conclusion weeks ago, why didn’t she do it?” Ald. Brookins told Aldertrack, adding that “a lion's share of the blame” will rest on her and her office.
“They go through and prosecute the cops. This isn’t the first cop shooting, there is a whole team at the state’s attorney’s office that should know how to handle these cases,” he added.
In a press release sent hours later, Brookins took his comments a step further, calling for President Obama to send in the Department of Justice to begin an investigation into policing tactics, structure, and administrative practices at CPD.
South Side Aldermen David Moore (17) and Ald. Hairston were among those calling for Alvarez’s removal.
“Alvarez has got to go. It’s too much. [It’s] perceived corruption in our community and no one is reacting responsibly,” Moore said.
“You’ve got the State’s Attorney that sat on her hands, why didn’t she press charges before now?” Ald. Hairston added, saying this is part of a pattern from Alvarez.
Ald. Pat Dowell (3) released a statement Tuesday evening pushing for tougher punishments for “officers who perform or participate in egregious and illegal acts”. She said some actions should mean suspension, removal of police powers, or pay, and said the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) should “share in the financial burden of settlement costs”.
When the $5 million settlement between the city and Laquan McDonald's estate was passed in an April City Council Finance Committee meeting, City Corporate Counsel Stephen Patton explicitly mentioned the existence of a video during the hearing and again in a Sun Times video following the vote. Ald. Jason Ervin and Ald. Marge Laurino (39) asked about the size of the settlement and if it was fiscally smart for the city. Patton recommended the settlement, and said the family had originally asked for $16 million.
The McDonald settlement was overshadowed by the political interest in another police settlement approved that day, a $250,000 payout to the mother of David Koschman, who died in 2004 after being punched by Richard Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“Surely the aldermen knew about the [McDonald shooting], why did they allow for the video to not surface? They have been silent,” said Birts.
Unless Mayor Emanuel takes strong, brisk action soon, his long-term political career in Chicago may be in jeopardy too, say activists, who are all too aware that the Black vote is what put Emanuel over the victory line.
“He played the Black community,” said Seals. “He sat on the video because he did not want it to surface when he was running for reelection.