Full Blown Scandal and Cover Up in Chicago Over McDonald Murder by Police

Office Van Dyke Arrested
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Office Van Dyke Arrested
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Nov. 24, 2015. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via Getty Images

Last week, more than 13 months after the tragic shooting of Laquan McDonald, Chicago officials, under a court order, released the horrifying video of the teenager being shot 16 times by a Chicago Police Officer who had arrived on the scene less than 30 seconds prior to opening fire.

This week, we learned from the manager of a Burger King near the scene that surveillance video was released by police and WGN-TV reported that he testified about this to a federal grand jury.

In a report from NBC News in Chicago, police came to the Burger King to look at video that the restaurant’s surveillance video system captured. But some files disappeared. The manager says 86 minutes of video was deleted.

NBC 5 News said, “News has obtained screen grabs of what appears to be at least one police officer in the Burger King at what appears to be a computer terminal that night.”

Police have denied the deleted 86 minutes, but as News 5 reports, “as they were looking at security footage, another Burger King security camera was looking at them.”

The manager said all video recorders were on and working properly that night, “but after police officers spent three hours inside, he said, the video was gone.”

Jay Darshane, District Manager of Burger King said, “We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete the files.” He added, “I mean, we were just trying to help the police officers.”

The missing video gap in the footage ran from 9:13 pm to 10:39 pm. Jason Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57, according to the charges.

News 5 reports that Prosecutor Anita Alvarez said at her press conference “that no one in her judgment tampered with the Burger King video.” The broadcast shows her stating that “forensic testing was done on the Burger King surveillance to determine if anyone had tampered with the evidence and the testing did not reveal any such evidence.”

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy claimed “technical difficulties” with the footage, but that in no way was anything tampered with. Two days after the News 5 broadcast, Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Mr. McCarthy.

Now the question turns to how far up the chain this will go. Four years ago, Mayor Emanuel brought Mr. McCarthy to Chicago and last week maintained confidence in his work.

On Tuesday, the mayor faced a growing set of questions as to why the video was not released earlier this year as Mr. Emanuel faced a heated challenge for his re-election – a challenge from the left.

He responded, “We have a practice, not unique to Chicago, that you don’t do anything as it relates to material evidence that would hamper, hinder, compromise an investigation.” He added: “Yet it’s clear you all want and the public deserves that information. There are two conflicting principles.”

Activists have called for Mayor Emanuel, a three-term congressman and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, to step down. He has refused those calls.

“We have a process called the election,” he said. “The voters spoke. I’ll be held accountable for the decisions and actions that I make.”

That call for resignation was joined later this week by Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, who said, “I join with those calling for a federal investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department. Furthermore, any official who helped suppress the videotape of Laquan McDonald’s murder should be held accountable.”

He added, “And any elected official with knowledge that the tape was being suppressed or improperly withheld should resign. No one should be shielded by power or position,” he said in the statement.

While he did not mention names, the only elected officials under fire to step down are Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will now investigate what is called a pattern-or-practice probe. Justice Department spokesman Dena Iverson said on Friday that “the department is carefully reviewing the requests for a pattern-or-practice investigation that have been made regarding the Chicago Police Department.”

Mayor Emanuel, after initially expressing hesitation, is now welcoming the review.

A pattern-or-practice inquiry is an extensive review with a mission to discover and “reform serious patterns and practices of excessive force, biased policing and other unconstitutional practices by law enforcement,” according to the Justice Department.

In a scathing editorial on Tuesday, the New York Times wrote: “The cover-up that began 13 months ago when a Chicago police officer executed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on a busy street might well have included highly ranked officials who ordered subordinates to conceal information. But the conspiracy of concealment exposed last week when the city, under court order, finally released a video of the shooting could also be seen as a kind of autonomic response from a historically corrupt law enforcement agency that is well versed in the art of hiding misconduct, brutality — and even torture.”

For them, Mayor Emanuel “demonstrated a willful ignorance when he talked about the murder charges against the police officer who shot Mr. McDonald, seeking to depict the cop as a rogue officer. He showed a complete lack of comprehension on Tuesday when he explained that he had decided to fire his increasingly unpopular police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, not because he failed in his leadership role, but because he had become ‘a distraction.’”

The Times called the task force “too little, too late.”

They noted, “The dash cam video might have been buried forever had lawyers and journalists not been tipped off to its existence. Mr. Emanuel, who was running for re-election at the time of the shooting, fought to keep it from becoming public, arguing that releasing it might taint a federal investigation.”

However, the Justice Department said on Tuesday “that the department did not ask the city to withhold the video from the public because of its investigation. That makes this whole episode look like an attempt by the city, the police and prosecutors to keep the video under wraps, knowing the political problems it would most likely create.”

Fortunately, the Times writes, “a journalist working the case sued for release of the video. When a county judge ordered the city to make it public last week, more than a year had passed since the shooting, and public confidence in the police, prosecutors and the mayor’s office had been exhausted.”

–David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 thoughts on “Full Blown Scandal and Cover Up in Chicago Over McDonald Murder by Police”

  1. Tia Will

    The missing video gap in the footage ran from 9:13 pm to 10:39 pm. Jason Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57, according to the charges.”

    I think that this is a clear example of why officers should not be allowed to view videotapes prior to making their memory based reports. I know that these issues (review of ones own footage, and review of an episode in which the officer was not directly involved) are different, but there is some overlap in terms of motivation and opportunity. It is human nature to want to be perceived in the best light possible, and to cover up our errors if possible. I would argue that in policing, as in surgery, this should not be allowed and the means to do so should not be provided.

    So keeping my principle of innocent until proven guilty in mind, I find the practice of turning tapes over to the individual officer or a group of officers with more allegiance to colleagues than to the public would be detrimental whether or not they are guilty of a coverup. If they are guilty of deleting the material, and if this was known by superiors, the problem is obvious and all involved should step down from their positions.

    But what if they are truly innocent ? The timing has to make one at least suspicious, and this suspicion will inevitably involve loss of trust in the police department itself, in the supervisors, on politicians and in the power structure as a whole, non of which is productive. I think that we are at the point where all evidentiary material in cases of significant physical harm and/or death should be turned over to a completely independent review board without ever being in the unsupervised custody of the police. And, yes, I know that this would add another bureaucratic layer, but I feel this is the obvious necessary choice given the level of violence we are witnessing.

  2. Frankly

    I think that this is a clear example of why officers should not be allowed to view videotapes prior to making their memory based reports.

    I say that all surgeons should have to wear body cameras at all times to record their work in the OR and should not be able to view it and have it turned over to an independent source in case of malpractice.

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

       

      “I say that all surgeons should have to wear body cameras at all times to record their work in the OR and should not be able to view it and have it turned over to an independent source in case of malpractice.”

      Although I suspect you intended sarcasm, I agree with your comment for several reasons. If the truth is what we are seeking, this would be a good way of determining what actually occurred from an objective if not all encompassing source of information. I believe that the surgeon should only be able to view the tape after they have dictated what they believe to represent the procedure.

      This might work to the favor or the detriment of the physician. Let’s say there was a bad outcome, but the procedure had been performed without error. In that case a taped record of the procedure would protect the surgeon from an erroneous or false claim. If the surgeon did commit an error it could be used not only to support a malpractice case, but hopefully for retraining purposes for this physician and training of resident physicians. If what we are truly seeking is improved outcomes, taping should be a near universal practice in cases where life and death are at stake and indeed some of our surgeons routinely tape their procedures and dictate their reports without viewing the tape. I was just starting to do this when I gave up surgery a number of years ago.

        1. Tia Will

          Frankly

          If what we are truly seeking is improved outcomes,”

          The “truth” is frequently colored by our values and biases. Improved outcomes is something we should be able to agree upon. Who does favor less killing on our streets and fewer surgical misadventures ?

  3. PhilColeman

    This should keep us all fully entertained for the next year or so. With the “other video” showing officers stationed at computer terminal this becomes an investigators’ delight. Ambitious junior federal prosecutors are lining up all over the country begging for a piece of this one. They are also buying new suits for the daily TV news conferences.

    We have the tight time-frame of when every recording device at Burger King was working fine. Enter the Chicago Police for a precise time period. Then, they leave and pieces are erased. From my limited knowledge of trying to alter video recordings, it’s virtually impossible not to leave incriminating traces. Burger King should not plan to make many future sales to Chicago cops, none of them will want to be photographed within a mile of any outlet.

    Initially, one could see a possible Chicago PD response of, “What visit? We have no knowledge of somebody being there,” and other (non) plausible denials. Now, putting identifiable persons at the terminal means some folks better run, not walk, to a nearby attorney’s office and don’t plan anything firm in your job expectations over the next several months.

    The Feds will start with the little guys, promise them no hard-time in Leavenworth in exchange for testimony showing a complicity, and then climb-the-ladder. Where it stops, the future will tell. Lots of people will resign and others will take early retirement if available. When it comes to municipal corruption, Chicago wrote the book. Here’s the latest chapter.

     

     

     

  4. Tia Will

    Once again, freedom of the press proves to be an important right!”

    And this is well worth keeping in mind regardless of our feelings about media exploitation of events, media contribution to copycat events or media or our own ideologic biases.

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