I Got the Laquan McDonald Video Released, but Chicago Is Still Covering Up His Death
A week ago today, Chicago released a police video of Laquan McDonald being killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke. A week later, and more than 13 months after Laquan’s death, the city is still hiding most of the evidence about what really happened.
I’m the journalist who sued Chicago and won the release of the video that showed Laquan being shot to death 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. But I’m not stopping there. With the help of attorneys, I’m continuing my Freedom of Information Act request of the city to release officer statements made to investigators, emails from city officials, and more. The public needs to know what as many as eight officers did immediately after the shooting, as well as how the department handled what should’ve been plainly seen as murder by one of its own officers that night.
What did these officers do following the shooting? In the first video released, you don’t see them bending down to comfort or render aid to Laquan.
Instead, police moved around some of their vehicles. We know this because video from a car that arrived on scene five minutes after the shooting shows a different configuration of cars than were seen when Van Dyke fired. This is important because each of these cruisers records what happens in front of them thanks to dashcams. Police have said that the five videos they released are the only ones from the scene that night, but police did not release video from the police car that likely shows Laquan’s face—and thus likely shows the shooting from the clearest angle.
The videos also can’t tell us how officers on the scene portrayed what happened in statements and interviews given to police and investigators from other agencies. If these officers told the story shown in the video, Van Dyke should have been cuffed for murder almost immediately. If these officers said something else, they should be considered complicit in a cover-up of Laquan’s alleged murder.
We also still don’t know what happened to the audio on the five tapes made public, which hasn’t yet been adequately explained by CPD.
With the help of my attorney Matt Topic, of civil-rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, I am demanding that all documents related to Laquan’s case be released to me and also posted to the Internet. (We’re using the hashtag #LaquanOnline.) Our request includes but is not limited to:
● Any as-yet unreleased video and/or internal discussion or statements as to what may have happened to it or the cameras that were supposed to be recording.
● Audio from all of the cameras and any internal discussion about it.
● A list of names of all officers on the scene of the shooting, and all statements taken from those officers, including regarding witnesses and any effort to “omit, alter, hide, or discourage” their statements.
● A list of names of any city (including police) employee who knew that the initial public account of the shooting differed from what actually happened, and the date that each person on the list was informed.
● A list of witnesses that police logged from the scene and their names, and all statements taken from those witnesses.
● All internal police department communication regarding the case, whether written, email, text message, voicemail, or other documents.
● All communication between the police department and other city departments (like the Mayor’s Office or the Independent Police Review Authority) regarding Laquan’s case, and communication regarding the case contained within other city departments.
● All communication between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police about Laquan’s case.
According to prosecutors, Jason Van Dyke is a murderer and that means there were at least eight eyewitnesses—employed by the Chicago Police Department—to the alleged crime. It’s not enough to keep these documents under wraps while the IPRA investigates, because there is no reason to believe it will operate independently. After all, The Daily Beast’s Justin Glawe interviewed IPRA whistleblower Lorenzo Davis last summer, who claims his bosses asked him to change the findings of three officer-involved shootings he determined to be without justification. Davis says that when he refused to comply, he was fired. That’s what happens to those inside the system who would hold it accountable.
Unless and until the city tells the public what the other eight officers knew, and why they didn’t come forward, the cover-up continues.