Federal authorities confirmed Monday they are leading a criminal probe of a Chicago police officer who shot a knife-wielding teenager 16 times last October, killing him.
The joint investigation into the death of Laquan McDonald, 17, is being led by the FBI in coordination with federal prosecutors, the Independent Police Review Authority and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, according to a statement Monday afternoon by U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon.
City Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton first disclosed the ongoing probe Monday morning while recommending to the City Council’s Finance Committee a settlement of $5 million in McDonald’s death. The Finance Committee endorsed the settlement, and the City Council will take up the issue Wednesday.
The teen was shot 16 times outside a fast-food restaurant on the Southwest Side on Oct. 20 after police responded to a call about a man wielding a knife, city officials said.
In a briefing for reporters after the hearing, Patton said dashboard camera footage of the shooting was crucial to the city’s decision to settle the case before a federal lawsuit was filed. He said lawyers for the family initially sought $16 million.
During the hearing, Patton said the officer who fired all 16 shots said he was in fear for his life. But Patton noted that lawyers for the teen would question why none of the other five officers on the scene opened fire.
Furthermore, lawyers for McDonald’s family contend “very vehemently” that the videotape shows that McDonald was walking away from police when the lone officer fired the 16 shots, Patton said.
McDonald’s family has not filed a lawsuit, but his mother, Tina Hunter, is the administrator of her son’s estate in Cook County probate court.
According to accounts given by Chicago police and the Fraternal Order of Police at the time of the shooting, McDonald wielded a knife when officers confronted him about attempted car break-ins near 40th Street and Karlov Avenue in the Archer Heights neighborhood.
FOP spokesman Pat Camden said McDonald ignored officers’ commands to drop the knife as he walked toward Pulaski Road. More officers arrived, and police tried to box the teen in with two squad cars. Camden said McDonald punctured one squad car’s front passenger-side tires and damaged the front windshield.
Officers got out of their car and started to approach McDonald, telling him again to drop the knife, Camden said. One of the officers opened fire, he said, when McDonald lunged at them. The teen was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital about an hour later.
Source: Chicago Tribune | Jeremy Gorner