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Caught On Video

16 Shots That Changed Chicago

The deadly Chicago police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald lasted only a few seconds but the fallout from the grim images, caught on a police dashboard camera, continues to this day.

Since the city released the video on Nov. 24, 2015, it has been viewed by millions, but one person has refused to watch it.

“I don’t think, to this day, that she has watched the video,” said Michael Robbins, one of the attorneys who represented McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter. “And then of course it became wallpaper, if you will, on the 24-hour news cycle and it went on and on and it’s everywhere. And it drove home her loss.”

Hunter never wanted the video to go public, Robbins said, but she knew it was a possibility.

Attorney Jeffrey Neslund, who also represented Hunter, said the video’s release tortured her.

“You don’t know when it’s going to pop up on the news or in the newspaper, and this is her son,” Neslund said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration also didn’t want it to come out, but for different reasons. Officials argued making the video public would compromise investigations into the shooting. But a Cook County judge disagreed and ordered for the video to be released.

And a chain reaction took place after the video was made public. WBEZ presents this timeline of events following the McDonald shooting, from the resignations of top law - enforcement officials to an overhaul of the city agency tasked with investigating shootings by officers and police misconduct.

Oct. 20, 2014
  • Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times after he responded to a police-radio dispatch requesting help for officers pursuing a knife-wielding male who allegedly had been breaking into trucks on the Southwest Side.
  • Pat Camden, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 7 in Chicago, told reporters McDonald approached officers with a knife. Officers at the scene during the shooting made similar claims in written reports and interviews.
  • Camden told the Chicago Sun-Times McDonald had a “strange gaze about him.”
  • "When police tell you to drop a weapon, all you have to do is drop it," Camden told the Chicago Tribune.
Nov. 7, 2014
  • McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, hired attorneys Jeffrey Neslund and Michael Robbins.
Looking Back

Neslund and Robbins say the shooting didn’t immediately stand out. But when they started researching what had been reported in the news they discovered one wrinkle.

“The only discordant note was there was a young woman who was briefly interviewed at the scene, and she said something to the effect that they didn’t have to shoot him,” Robbins says. “It didn’t make any sense.”

Dec. 8, 2014
  • Independent journalist Jamie Kalven and University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman published an article that cited an eyewitness who claimed McDonald was walking away from officers. The article noted a dashcam could have recorded the shooting and urged the city to release the video.
Looking Back

“Maybe 10 days after the incident, a whistleblower had reached out, saying what had been reported in the media was far from the reality, that the incident was horrific and that there was dashcam video,” Kalven told WBEZ.

  • Scott Ando, chief administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, the agency tasked with investigating police shootings, emailed the article to Janey Rountree, public safety liaison for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Feb. 10, 2015
Looking Back

“The moment that the autopsy report was available, I rushed down, got it and immediately opened it in the car and began reading it,” Kalven says. “And there’s a sense in which the corpse testifies (and) tells its own story. I mean, this was, I think, the moment when it’s fair to say that the city’s narrative couldn’t possibly be true.”

Feb. 24, 2015
  • In the municipal election, Emanuel received less than half the total votes and was forced into a runoff against the second-highest vote getter, Cook County Commissioner Jesús “Chuy” García. It was the first time a Chicago mayor had been forced into a runoff since the city switched to nonpartisan elections 20 years earlier.
March 3-6, 2015
  • Robbins and Neslund, the attorneys for McDonald’s mother, proposed a $16 million settlement with the city — $1 million for each time the teenager was shot.
  • In a letter to city Deputy Corporation Counsel Thomas Platt, Robbins and Neslund said dashboard-camera video contradicted the FOP spokesman’s account.
  • “Contrary to the false statements the city allowed the FOP spokesman to spin to the media, the dash cam confirms that Mr. McDonald did not ‘lunge’ toward the police,” the attorneys wrote. “In complete contradistinction, the dash cam establishes Laquan was walking on angle 10-15 feet away from the officers at the time of the shooting.”
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Attorneys Michael Robbins, left, and Jeffrey Neslund, counsel for the mother of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, talk to reporters Nov. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

April 7, 2015
  • In a runoff election, Emanuel received 56 percent of the vote, winning his second term as mayor.
  • “To all the voters, I want to thank you for putting me through my paces,” Emanuel said during his victory speech. “I will be a better mayor because of that.”
April 8, 2015
  • McDonald’s mother authorized her attorneys to settle with the city for $5 million.
April 13-15, 2015
  • The City Council approved the proposed settlement in a 47-0 vote despite not having seen the video of the shooting.
  • Aldermen also approved a $5.5 million reparations fund for victims of torture under former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.
May 26, 2015
  • NBC 5’s Carol Marin reported that surveillance video from a Burger King near the McDonald shooting site was missing 86 minutes from the night the teen was shot. The restaurant’s manager claimed police deleted parts of the recording, but Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said later that forensic tests showed no intentional tampering with the recording.
Aug. 5, 2015
  • Freelance reporter Brandon Smith sued the city a day after the police department denied a Freedom of Information Act request for the police dashboard camera videos from the shooting scene.
Looking Back

“When I started the lawsuit, I wasn’t expecting a huge outcry,” Smith tells WBEZ. “I was expecting to get a good story out of it. I was pleasantly surprised, basically. A lot of folks latched on. You know, part of that, I later learned, was kind of a PR push by the law firm that I worked with, so that was useful.”

Oct. 5, 2015
  • The City Council’s Black Caucus claimed that a change in leadership was needed to curb an increase in the city's gun violence and called on Emanuel to fire police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Oct. 8, 2015
  • Emanuel blamed a rise in crime on police officers second-guessing themselves.
  • “We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence,” Emanuel said, according to the Washington Post. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict.… They don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact.”
Nov. 19, 2015
  • A Cook County judge sided with Smith, the freelance reporter, and ordered the city to release the video by Nov. 25.
Nov. 24, 2015
  • Prosecutors charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder.
  • Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez defended the time it took to file charges, saying cases against officers can be complex.
  • ABC Channel 7 reported it had obtained a copy of the video, which drew the attention of the Emanuel administration.
  • Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy held a press conference before giving newsrooms access to the video online.
  • Emanuel attended the city’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Millennium Park as protests began throughout the city.
Looking Back

“It was like my heart stopped, because I couldn’t believe that it was happening and that it was happening on live television,” says Richard Wooten, a retired Chicago police officer, of the video’s release. “But I’m glad it was shown because it brought awareness to changes that needed to be made within our department at this present date and time....

“That was an execution. And it hurt me because it was like, ‘Wow, that could’ve been my son.’ ”

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Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is booked into the Cook County Jail. (Cook County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Nov. 25-27, 2015
  • Protests reached a crescendo on Black Friday as hundreds marched down the Magnificent Mile and blocked shoppers from entering stores.
Looking Back

“We had been reached out to by the mayor’s office to calm the streets or whatever in some meeting in preparation for this tape,” says poet-activist Malcolm London. “We didn’t want to be a part of those people who were telling people to calm down, because we’re not in a calm moment.”

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Protesters make their way up North Michigan Avenue on Nov. 27, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Dec. 1, 2015
  • The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board called for police Supt. McCarthy to resign.
  • “McCarthy’s resignation is an essential first step for a city that must pursue new strategies to curtail gun violence and reform an unhealthy police culture of weak accountability,” the board wrote.
  • Speaking to WGN-AM 720’s Steve Cochran, McCarthy hinted that the release of the video was affecting him. “How am I? I’m a little busy and a little stressed out, but I’m staying the course,” McCarthy told Cochran.
  • During his media blitz, McCarthy was called to the mayor’s office, where Emanuel asked and received McCarthy’s resignation.
  • Emanuel announced First Deputy Supt. John Escalante would take over as interim superintendent and unveiled a task force charged with recommending new ways to hold police accountable.
  • Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called for a federal probe into the Chicago Police Department.
  • “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,” Madigan wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Dec. 2, 2015
Dec. 3, 2015
Dec. 4, 2015
  • The city released hundreds of pages of police reports that offered accounts at odds with what appeared in the video.
Looking Back

“I believe, probably, a lot of those officers were stunned at what they were seeing,” says Richard Wooten, a retired Chicago police officer. “And probably what was going through their minds was, ‘Aw man, how do I get away from this?’ A lot of officers, when we see things happening that we know are not right, we immediately try to separate ourselves from that. But unfortunately the situation itself didn’t allow them to actually disassociate themselves because they were already listed as being on the scene.”

Dec. 6, 2015
  • Ando, the chief administrator for the Independent Police Review Authority, resigned as the agency’s record of almost always siding with police in misconduct investigations came under greater scrutiny.
  • Emanuel announced Sharon Fairley, a former assistant U.S. attorney who worked in the city’s inspector general office, would head IPRA.
  • Constantine “Dean” Andrews, the department’s chief of detectives, resigned.
Dec. 7, 2015
  • U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a federal probe into the Chicago Police Department.
  • “If we discover unconstitutional patterns or practices, the Department of Justice will announce them publicly, seek a court-enforceable agreement with the Chicago Police Department and work with the city to implement appropriate reforms,” she said.
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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on Dec. 7, 2015. Lynch announced a federal civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Dec. 8, 2015
  • Fairley, the new chief of IPRA, asked the city’s inspector general, Joseph Ferguson, to take over the city’s investigation of the McDonald shooting.
  • “Public confidence in the investigation will be enhanced if it is conducted from this point forward by an agency that has had no involvement with the matter and can bring a fresh look at the facts,” Fairley said in a statement.
Dec. 9, 2015
  • Emanuel called for sweeping reforms within the police department during an emotional speech before the City Council, saying abusive officers need to be disciplined and that trust between the black community and law enforcement must be improved. Emanuel also said a “code of silence” exists within the police department.
Dec. 11, 2015
  • McDonald’s great-uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, said State’s Attorney Alvarez should resign and urged the media to stop showing the video.
  • "How would you feel if every day, 24 hours a day, you saw your son die?" Hunter told reporters at a press conference.
  • “Alvarez has forfeited the moral high ground, and she’s lost the trust of the people of the county of Cook and the city of Chicago,” he said.
Dec. 15, 2015
  • A Cook County grand jury indicted Van Dyke on six counts of murder and one count of official misconduct.
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Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, right, leaves the courtroom after a hearing, with his attorney, Daniel Herbert, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago on Dec. 18, 2015. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

Dec. 26, 2015
  • The first fatal police shooting since the release of the McDonald video occured in West Garfield Park, where an officer shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and a neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, whose death was later called an accident by the police department.
  • All officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative duties for 30 days, marking a policy change from three days off active duty.
Dec. 29, 2015
  • Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.
Dec. 31, 2015
  • The Emanuel administration released thousands of pages of internal emails that showed IPRA and the mayor’s office were in close communication about the McDonald shooting despite the agency’s purported independence.
Jan. 22, 2016
  • Chicago Police Detective David March, who concluded the McDonald shooting was justified, and Officer Joseph Walsh, who was Van Dyke’s partner, were placed on desk duty.
Feb. 16, 2016
  • Several civil-rights attorneys called for a special prosecutor to prosecute Van Dyke and investigate an alleged coverup.
  • State’s Attorney Alvarez dismissed the request, saying her office was capable of handling the case, and questioned the timing — just weeks before the Democratic primary. Kim Foxx, one of Alvarez’s opponents, had vowed to appoint a special prosecutor in all police-shooting cases.
  • Emanuel announced a new 60-day deadline for the city to release police reports and video and audio recordings related to police shootings.
March 15, 2016
  • Foxx is elected as the Democratic nominee for Cook County state’s attorney.
Looking Back

“Laquan McDonald was the most important thing for everybody,” Foxx campaign manager Brian Sleet says about a poll taken after the video’s release. “ The tracker poll we did a couple of weeks before the election ... black voters still cared a lot more, but the white liberal vote, interest had dropped 30-plus percent. What you see working in the neighborhoods is that violence in the South Side and West Side are something that people shake their head about, but it’s not an enduring thing that people are focused on trying to fix.”

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Kim Foxx smiles at the crowd as she celebrates her Democratic primary win over incumbent Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez on March 15, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

March 29, 2016
  • New interim police Supt. Eddie Johnson told CBS-Ch. 2 he has never seen police misconduct during his 27 years on the force.
  • “I’ve actually never encountered police misconduct, be cause you got to understand, officers that commit misconduct don’t do it in front of people that they think are going to hold them accountable for it,” Johnson said. “Now that I’m sitting in this chair, if I come across it, I will deal with it accordingly.”
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel swears in Eddie Johnson as the new police superintendent at a City Council meeting April 13, 2016. Johnson, who has 27 years on the force, was Emanuel’s hand-picked choice to take the job. The City Council confirmed the appointment in a 50-0 vote. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

April 13, 2016
  • The City Council unanimously approved Johnson’s appointment as police superintendent.
  • The mayor’s task force on police accountability released its recommendations , which included dismantling IPRA, the city’s police oversight agency, and urging the police department to acknowledge its history of institutional racism.
  • "We fundamentally believe that until the department really sincerely acknowledges that reality, that history, what their role has been ... in creating that perception, it’s going to be virtually impossible for them to move forward in any meaningful way with the community. It’s got to be done," said task force chair and Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot on WBEZ’s Morning Shift.
  • Fairley, the head of IPRA, told reporters she supports the plan.
May 5, 2016
  • Outgoing Cook County State’s Attorney Alvarez, in a reversal, requested a special prosecutor for the Van Dyke murder case.
June 3, 2016
  • IPRA released videos and other information in more than 100 cases , an unprecedented move by the police oversight agency.
July 29, 2016
  • Former Cook County judge Patricia Brown Holmes was appointed as special prosecutor to investigate whether any Chicago police personnel engaged in a coverup after the McDonald shooting.
Aug. 4, 2016
  • A Cook County judge swore in Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon as special prosecutor in the Van Dyke murder case.
Aug. 5, 2016
  • IPRA released videos from the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, who was shot July 28 on the South Side as he fled from a Jaguar that was reportedly stolen. Fairley said she decided to release the recordings eight days after the shooting instead of waiting for the investigation to conclude — the rationale various officials gave for withholding the McDonald video for more than a year.
  • “When I was first appointed in December, I think it was clear that the city had been operating under this sort of basic, bright-line rule that they just did not release any evidence in an ongoing investigation until the criminal investigation was complete,” Fairley said on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.
  • “It was painfully clear to me that that rule is no longer tenable in this day and age. With every case, we will no longer follow that rule, and we will weigh the public interest in information versus the potential risk to an ongoing investigation in making the determination as when and if any kinds of evidence will be released.”
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In this frame grab from a body cam provided by the Independent Police Review Authority, a Chicago police officer fires into a stolen car driven by Paul O’Neal on July 28, 2016. (Chicago Police Department/Independent Police Review Authority via AP)

Aug. 16, 2016
  • In a report delivered to Police Supt. Johnson, Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended firing 11 officers connected to the McDonald shooting, including Van Dyke. Johnson would later bring dismissal charges against Van Dyke, three other patrol officers and a sergeant, who are all accused of reporting false statements about the McDonald shooting.
  • After being passed over for the city’s top cop position, First Deputy Supt. John Escalante said he will leave the department and work as head of security of Northeastern Illinois University.
Sept. 12, 2016
  • Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor investigating an alleged cover-up in the McDonald shooting, asked for a grand jury.
Sept. 21, 2016
  • Police Supt. Johnson said the city will add 970 cops to the force. The announcement came as the city recorded more than 500 homicides in 2016. In August alone, the city saw 90 homicides, more than in any other month in two decades.
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivers a plan to combat the city’s gun violence at Malcolm X Community College on Sept. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Sept. 22, 2016
  • Emanuel delivered a much-hyped speech on public safety that emphasized the need for more youth mentoring programs and economic investments in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Oct. 5, 2016
  • The City Council approved Emanuel’s plan to replace IPRA with a new agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, that would have more funding and expanded powers. Aldermen also approved the mayor’s plan to create a police watchdog unit under the city’s inspector general.
  • The mayor and aldermen promised to create a third new entity, a community oversight board, in the future. The board would select the head of COPA. In the meantime, Fairley agreed to stay on as interim COPA chief.
Nov. 8, 2016
  • Donald Trump won the presidential election. During the campaign trail, Trump criticized the Obama administration’s investigations into police departments throughout the country.
Nov. 16, 2016
  • Patricia Brown Holmes, the special prosecutor assigned to investigate a possible cover-up after the McDonald shooting, said a special grand jury had been impaneled to hear evidence in the case.
Jan. 4, 2017
  • Federal investigators feel pressured to release the findings of their investigation into the Chicago Police Department because they fear their report will be delayed or buried with the incoming Trump administration, sources familiar with the probe told WBEZ.
Jan. 10, 2017
  • During a confirmation hearing, Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, criticized federal investigations into police departments and said they lower morale among officers. “Morale has been affected, and it's impacted the crime rates in Baltimore and crime rates in Chicago. I don't think there's any doubt about it,” Sessions said.
Jan. 13, 2017
  • The U.S. Department of Justice concludes its long-awaited investigation and found that the Chicago Police Department systematically violated the U.S. Constitution and federal laws. The report said officers used “unreasonable” deadly force, failed to de-escalate situations and used tactics that unnecessarily endangers officers. The report also found that discipline of officers is “haphazard, unpredictable and does not deter misconduct.” The city and the Justice Department agreed to continue negotiate over a court-enforced agreement to ensure further reforms are implemented.
June 27, 2017
  • Three Chicago police officers were indicted on felony charges that they conspired to cover up the McDonald shooting. The officers — David March, Thomas Gaffney and Joseph Walsh, who was Van Dyke’s partner — allegedly lied about the events leading up to the shooting and prepared police reports that falsely portrayed themselves as victims of McDonald, according to the indictment. Walsh and March had previously left the force, according to the police department, and Gaffney was suspended because of the indictment