Monday Morning Thoughts: Justice Department Investigates Chicago Police

Police Blue
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

The Washington Post reports that, once again, the Department of Justice will launch an investigation into patterns and practices, this time of the Chicago Police Department, a review that will be similar in scope to the reviews that examined Ferguson and Baltimore.

As the Post reports, “The Justice Department is already investigating the McDonald shooting, but this new investigation by the department’s civil rights division would focus on the police department’s practices broadly to determine whether any of them contribute to civil rights violations.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel “called the possibility of a civil rights investigation ‘misguided’ last week. But, a day later, he reversed course and said he would welcome such an investigation.” Mayor Emanuel, a former Congressman and top aide to President Obama, has been under fire for the handling of the Laquan McDonald video.

Some have called the decision to fight the release for more than a year “a politically motivated decision meant to insulate the mayor from political backlash while he was locked in a tight reelection effort. One week after the McDonald video was released, Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy.”

The same day that Superintendent McCarthy was fired, “Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter to the DOJ urging them to open an investigation into the police department.”

The Post quotes her, “The McDonald shooting is shocking, and it highlights serious questions about the historic, systemic use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse by CPD.”

Rose Joshua said, “We have called for police reform as it relates to this police department…and we’ve also called for accountability in city government.”  She is president of Chicago South Side NAACP, which had previously called for a Justice Department probe into the city’s police. “It should be something that’s broad. It should be a detailed probe and should look into the specific civil rights complaints filed over the years by activists here on the ground.

“We have systemic problems, and if we can find a solution to systemic issues, it’s going to take the community to do that,” Ms. Joshua said. “At this juncture, I’m saddened and afraid and I’m wondering if we can do that.”

Tamir Rice Shooting
Captures from the Shooting Video Released by Cleveland Police following the November 2014 shooting

Tamir Rice Expert Says Video Shows Hands in Pockets When Shot

A new report from an expert hired by the family of Tamir Rice casts doubt on the official explanation that the boy was reaching for what turned out to be a replica gun when officers shot him within two seconds of arriving on the scene last November.

Last week, officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback gave their first public accounts of what happened on November 22, 2014, to a grand jury which is in the process of considering whether to charge the officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Mr. Loehmann said he repeatedly ordered Tamir Rice, who looked to him “over 18 years old and about 185 pounds,” to “show me your hands.” “I kept my eyes on the suspect the entire time,” Mr. Loehmann wrote in his statement. “I saw the weapon in his hands coming out of his waistband and the threat to my partner and myself was real and active,” he added.

But Jesse Wobrock, an accident reconstruction expert with a PhD in biomedical engineering from UCLA, contradicts that account.

Dr. Wobrock concludes in a frame-by-frame analysis that several points in the officers’ accounts are inaccurate. According to his analysis, “Tamir’s hands were in front of his body for a couple seconds while the officers remained in their cruiser. While the vehicle was still moving forward, Loehmann opened the passenger door; at this point, Tamir’s hands had moved into his jacket pockets.”

Half a second later, “Tamir moved his right shoulder and arm upward in a “defensive-type position”—  a movement consistent with the bullet hole’s location in his outer jacket — and was shot.” This upward motion was performed while Tamir Rice’s hands were still in pocket.

While previous reports placed the time that Tamir was shot within two seconds of Officer Loehmann exiting the vehicle, parked within seven feet of the child, Dr. Wobrock concluded that the accident actually occurred even more quickly.

He writes, “Based on my review of the available evidence and information, it is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that Officer Loehmann shot Tamir Rice within 1 second of opening the vehicle door.” He continues, “Tamir Rice did not have enough time to remove his hands from his jacket pockets, prior to being shot.”

“The vehicle was still in motion when Officer Loehmann exited and began firing,” Dr. Wobrok continues. “Officer Loehmann’s gun was drawn and unholstered when he exited the vehicle. The windows of the vehicle were up at the time Officer Loehmann exited the vehicle thus, making any verbal commands issued from inside the vehicle inaudible to anyone outside.”

“The toy gun was not visible to the officers prior to the shooting,” he concludes. “The video shows that at no point in his encounter with the police did Tamir Rice reach into his waistband. Tamir Rice’s hands were not visible to the officers prior to the shooting because they were in his jacket pockets.”

He adds, “The movement of Tamir Rice’s elbow and shoulder in Frame 123 is consistent with Rice moving his right arm up in a defensive manner, at the time of the shooting.   The significantly different location of the bullet hole in Rice’s jacket as compared to the bullet entry wound in his midline abdomen is consistent with him being shot at approximately Frame 123, when his right elbow and arm moved upward in a defensive manner, causing his jacket to also move upward and to the right.”

Finally, he concludes, “The scientific analysis and timing involved do not support any claim that there was a meaningful exchange between Officer Loehmann and Tamir Rice, before he was shot.”

“Based on the timing of this event,” Dr. Wobrock writes, “Tamir Rice did not have enough time to perceive and react to any verbal commands. “It is clear that Officer Loehmann shot Tamir Rice immediately upon exiting the vehicle, such that Rice did not have enough time to take his hands out of his jacket pockets.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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3 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Justice Department Investigates Chicago Police”

  1. Barack Palin

    “The Justice Department is already investigating the McDonald shooting

    The FBI didn’t launch an investigation on the McDonald shooting until a week after Rahm Emanuel had won re-election.  As we’ve already seen with the IRS and other politically damaging scandals for the Democrats don’t expect Rahm Emanuel to be called out by this biased DOJ.

    And all this scrambling by officials — the inaccurate police account, the speedy payment of money to the victim’s family — had a suspiciously political timing to it. McDonald’s killing occurred four months before Emanuel faced a tough re-election in February: As it turned out, Emanuel failed to win a majority and only squeaked by after a runoff election, the first in Chicago history.
    The video showing McDonald’s killing was only released — more than a year after the fact — because a judge ordered it after months of legal battling by the Emanuel administration and the state’s attorney to keep the footage under wraps. And only hours before the video came out was Van Dyke arrested and charged with murder.

    1. Miwok

      Just like Michael Brown, any prior few minutes before he died is not a part of the record. Robbery vandalism, threatening, assault? Not germane because they ended up dead. Mostly they are dead because they did not submit to the police.

      I sometimes watch COPS where a guy is handcuffed “for the officer safety” while they are searched and questioned, except the person moves around and is then arrested for “resisting arrest”. Wha?

      They are not under arrest but then they are for resisting? I think officers are trained to squeeze pressure points sometimes to get a reaction and then can get this charge. But in this Chicago case, the guy was obviously not stopping even to talk. Why not a big net? Beanbags?

  2. Tia Will

    Dr. Wobrock concludes in a frame-by-frame analysis that several points in the officers’ accounts are inaccurate.”

    This statement has broader applicability to the general question of whether police officers ( or surgeons) should be allowed to view tapes prior to their writing their own recollected account of the event or procedure. The statement here is not that the officer is lying. The assertion is that the officer’s accounts are inaccurate. There is no statement about the reason for that inaccuracy. Memories are notoriously inaccurate since they are ( as is videotape) dependent on point of view. Additionally, memories ( but not videotapes) may be colored by our emotional and physiologic condition at the time of the event.

    It seems apparent to me that when a report is issued prior to viewing of the videotape, what you have are two versions of the same event. The degree to which they coincide will determine how accurate a reflection they are of what factually occurred. The tape may provide either a corroboration or a contradiction in the recollection, while the recollection may provide the rationale behind why the event occurred as it did, which the tape will never reveal. Thus the importance of having the two as independent, free standing documents of the event rather than one potentially being shaped in advance by the other.

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