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Murder cover-up in Chicago

GEORGE E. CURRY | 12/14/2015, 10:09 a.m.
As more information emerges in connection with Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on ...
George Curry

(George Curry Media) – As more information emerges in connection with Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014, the more it appears that not only was an unjustified murder committed by a person who had sworn to uphold the law, there was a cover-up at every level.

Even worse, the cover-up seems to be still in effect today as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials scramble to cover their tracks.

Let’s start with the videotaped incident itself.

Perhaps the most illuminating public account of the shooting thus far was provided by Stephen Patton, head of the city’s law department, when he appeared at the City Council’s Finance Committee hearing on April 13. In urging the city to settle the case out of court for $5 million, he noted that Van Dyke, referred to in his testimony as Officer A, was culpable because:

• McDonald did not pose an immediate threat to Van Dyke.

• McDonald was walking away from Van Dyke at the time he was fatally shot.

• None of the other five officers on the scene saw fit to fire their weapons at McDonald, including Van Dyke’s partner.

• No other people were ever placed in danger.

• The use of deadly force in this case was unwarranted.

For the past year, Illinois and federal authorities have supervised a joint grand jury. As proceedings dragged on, Emanuel doggedly resisted all calls to release dash-camera video of the shooting.

After privately viewing the video, however, city officials acted quickly when attorneys representing the estate of the dead teen approached the mayor’s office about reaching a financial settlement. The city was in deep negotiations with attorneys for McDonald’s estate while the mayor was facing a tough re-election fight and eventual run-off with Jesus Garcia.

A final deal was struck April 8, a day after Emanuel’s re-election. Five days later, the proposed settlement was presented to the Chicago City Council Finance Committee. Relying on the testimony of corporation counsel Patton, the City Council agreed to a $5 million settlement without a lawsuit being filed or members of City Council looking at the incriminating tape.

There is little doubt that if the videotape had surfaced during the height of Emanuel’s re-election campaign, he would not have won a second term. So, he directed his corporate counsel to fight all efforts to have the tape released.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who is up for re-election next year, said City Hall made the decision to withhold the videotape from the public.

“They asked us our position in telephone calls – we said it was not our preference to release it, but it was ultimately their decision because of the FOIA,” Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly told Politico. “We’re not party to the litigation on the FOIA.”

But nothing prevented Alvarez from releasing the incriminating tape.

More than a dozen Freedom of Information Act requests had been filed seeking release of the tape, but it took a lawsuit by Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist, to compel its disclosure under public records laws.