Police chief out amid protests of teen’s murder in Chicago

Free Press wire reports | 12/4/2015, 10:52 p.m.
Chicago’s police chief was ousted on Tuesday following days of unrest over video footage showing the police shooting of a ...
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy appear at a news conference Nov. 24 to announce the first degree murder charge against police officer Jason Van Dyke in the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, 17. Mayor Emanuel on Tuesday asked Mr. McCarthy to resign. Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Free Press wire reports CHICAGO

Chicago’s police chief was ousted on Tuesday following days of unrest over video footage showing the police shooting of a black teenager and the subsequent filing of murder charges against a white police officer in the young man’s death.

The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged Nov. 24 with first-degree murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was shot 16 times. The video of the killing was released on the day the former officer was charged.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference Tuesday that he had asked Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to resign. The mayor also said he was creating a new police accountability task force.

The mayor said he asked new First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante to serve as acting superintendent during a “thorough” search for a permanent replacement.

The mayor, a Democrat and the former chief of staff to President Obama, said he was responsible for what happened in the case, the same as the police superintendent.

“I’m responsible. I don’t shirk that responsibility,” Mayor Emanuel said. He added that the creation of the task force was meant to rebuild trust in the police department of one of the country’s largest cities.

Mayor Emanuel, Superintendent McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have faced criticism for taking 13 months to release the video of the October 2014 fatal shooting and to charge Mr. Van Dyke.

On Tuesday afternoon, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said she wrote to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking the Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation into the Police Department’s “use of force, including deadly force; the adequacy of its review and investigation of officers’ use of force and investigation of allegations of misconduct; its provision of training, equipment and supervision of officers to allow them to do their job safely and effectively; and whether there exists a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.”

Mr. Van Dyke and other officers were responding to a report of a teen with a knife who had been breaking into cars on the night Laquan was shot.

In the video, the officer is seen exiting his car on Oct. 20, 2014, with his gun drawn and approaching the teen who was armed with a knife and reportedly under the influence of PCP.

The video shows Laquan walking away from police as Mr. Van Dyke moves closer before repeatedly shooting the youth. Mr. Van Dyke’s first shot spins Laquan around and he collapses in the middle of the road. Although authorities have said at least eight officers were on the scene at the time, only Mr. Van Dyke opened fire. Another officer stopped him from reloading his gun, according to reports.

Meanwhile, a Chicago Burger King manager who accuses police of erasing surveillance video in the incident said Saturday he testified before a federal grand jury investigating the shooting.

Jay Darshane told the Chicago Tribune that the FBI also took the video recorder containing all of the fast food restaurant’s surveillance images.

He said that when the officers left, almost two hours later, there was an 86-minute gap in the recording, including the time surrounding the shooting.

Both the police chief and the Cook County state’s attorney deny the Burger King video was altered.

The Burger King is yards from where Laquan fell when the first few bullets from Mr. Van Dyke struck him. It took minutes for police to demand the restaurant’s password-protected video, Mr. Darshane said.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officials in U.S. cities have prompted demonstrations in the last two years, stoking a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

Mr. Van Dyke, 37, was released from jail on Monday after posting a $1.5 million bond.

As a condition of his release set by the judge, Mr. Van Dyke had to surrender his firearm owner ID card and all firearms to law enforcement.

During a protest on Monday, Cornell William Brooks, president of the national NAACP, was among several people arrested during the peaceful demonstration, the organization said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Brooks accused the city of “generational police misconduct and police brutality” and called for more than a change in leadership.

“The question before us now is, ‘Will we have a police department that is accountable, that has transparency and operates with integrity and treats the citizens of Chicago with respect and dignity and understands profoundly that black lives matter, all lives matter. And certainly the life of a 17-year-old young man?’” he told CNN.

On Black Friday, demonstrators marched through the streets and disrupted shopping in Chicago’s ritziest retail district.

Despite a cold, drizzling rain, hundreds of demonstrators turned out to join the protest on the day that marks the traditional beginning of the holiday shopping season along Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile.

Activists chanting, “16 shots! 16 shots!” stopped traffic for blocks for up to an hour. Police officers along the sidewalk formed a barrier of sorts between the protesters and stores and helped shoppers get through the doors.

Among the marchers was 73-year-old Frank Chapman of Chicago, who said the disturbing video confirms what activists have said for years about Chicago police brutality.

“That needs to end. Too many have already died,” said Mr. Chapman, whose organization, the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression, is pushing for an elected, civilian police accountability council.