CHICAGO | A federal judge on Thursday granted the release of 2013 surveillance video showing a white Chicago police officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old black carjacking suspect after the city withdrew its objection to it being made public.
The city could release the video of 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman’s death within hours, but a spokesman for the city’s Law Department didn’t immediately respond to an email asking when it would do so.
Questions about the Chatman video follow the Nov. 24 release of another video that made headlines. That video shows white officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The city fought its release for more than a year, making it public only after a state court ordered it to do so. The video and the delay in releasing it led to protests, calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign and a federal civil-rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department.
An officer killed Chatman on Jan. 7, 2013, during a foot chase. Court documents say several surveillance cameras recorded police running after the 17-year-old in a South Shore neighborhood during daylight hours and recorded one officer fatally shooting him.
His family had asked that the video be made public as it sued the city over the shooting, arguing it would counter the city’s narrative that Chatman posed a danger to police.
The officer says he fired after seeing Chatman turn toward officers with a dark object in his hand. Investigators later found the object was an iPhone box.
A lawyer for Chatman’s family says the video will show he never turned toward officers and posed no threat.
City attorneys, until Wednesday, fought to keep it under seal on grounds its release could taint any jury pool should the civil case go to trial. They said in a Wednesday court filing that the city was dropping its opposition in an effort to be more transparent while it waits for a recently created special task force to review policies regarding the release of videos showing disputed police shootings.
Steve Patton, Emanuel’s top legal adviser said in a statement that “we are working to be as transparent as possible.”
Chatman family lawyer Brian Coffman said he was pleasantly surprised at the change of heart but that he believes Chicago officials knew U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman was poised to rule against them at Thursday’s previously scheduled hearing.
“It is a political move to save face,” Coffman said.
The cameras that caught the incident were at a distance and the footage is of low quality, court filings say. But Chatman family lawyers have said it is clear enough to show the teenager didn’t turn.
Andrew Hale, a lawyer for two officers named as defendants in the lawsuit, said in an email Wednesday that the video will show his clients acted properly. Minutes before the shooting, he said, Chatman refused officers’ orders and jumped out of a car after grabbing the item that turned out to be the box.
“As he was fleeing, the suspect turned toward the officers, with the dark object in his right hand, causing one officer to open fire,” Hale’s email said.
The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police shootings, cleared the officer who shot Chatman of any wrongdoing. However, court filings allege that the agency cleared the officer only after an investigator who opposed that finding, Lorenzo Davis, was fired. Davis has filed a separate lawsuit about his dismissal. IPRA has declined to comment on Davis’ case because the litigation is ongoing.
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