Videos of Chicago Police Shooting of Teen Cedrick Chatman Released

© AP Photo/M. Spencer Green Mark Smolens, left, Nicole Barkowski, and Brian Coffman right, attorneys for the family of Cedrick Chatman, who was shot and killed by Chicago police in 2013, speak at a news conference at the federal cour…
© AP Photo/M. Spencer Green Mark Smolens, left, Nicole Barkowski, and Brian Coffman right, attorneys for the family of Cedrick Chatman, who was shot and killed by Chicago police in 2013, speak at a news conference at the federal cour…

Videos of another fatal shooting by a white Chicago police officer of a black teenager were released Thursday, after a federal judge’s order that blasted the city for abruptly reversing its opposition to making the surveillance footage public. 

“I went to a lot of trouble to decide this issue, and then I get this motion last night saying that this is the Age of Enlightenment with the city and we’re going to be transparent,” U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman said in lifting his protective order on the video evidence. “I think it’s irresponsible.”

Attorneys for Cedrick Chatman’s family have said the videos of his January 2013 shooting contradict statements from police that Chatman had turned and pointed a dark object at police as he ran, prompting Officer Kevin Fry to fire in fear of his life. The object turned out to be a black iPhone box.

With Gettleman signing off on the release, the surveillance footage was made available Thursday afternoon. The videos were obtained from a police surveillance camera as well as cameras outside a convenience store and by South Shore High School.

Both sides agree that, unlike the now-infamous dash-cam video of the Laquan McDonald shooting, the surveillance videos in the Chatman case are low-quality and show only a distant view of the shooting.

However, lawyers for Chatman’s family say the footage shows the teen was clearly running away from police and about to turn a corner when he was shot.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration had argued for months that releasing the video could inflame the public and jeopardize a fair trial in the family’s lawsuit. In a surprise court filing Wednesday, though, the city dropped its opposition, citing the ongoing work of Emanuel’s Task Force on Police Accountability, which is expected to issue recommendations in March on the city’s long-standing policy of keeping police shooting videos from the public.

Before Gettleman ruled on the motion Thursday, Jonathan Green, an assistant corporation counsel, told the judge the city is being forced to adapt to “a new world” in which new technologies and the public demand for information on police shootings have taken precedence over the city’s longstanding policy to keep evidence in pending cases under wraps.

In the meantime, Green said, the city had decided that in this case “the public’s right to disclosure” outweighed concerns over jeopardizing a fair trial.

“We are making a policy change on behalf of the people of Chicago,” Green said.

But Gettleman said the city had been disingenuous in its previous arguments that the videos would not be part of any pretrial motions and therefore should be legally barred from being released to the public.

“I am very disturbed about the way this happened,” Gettleman said.

After court, Brian Coffman, who represents Chatman’s family, said the family was suspicious of the timing of the city’s about-face. He said Green’s unusual “speech” in court showed how the city was “really trying to control the message.”

“The city of Chicago has had not only the last month and a half they’ve had over the last 2 { years to be transparent in this case,” Coffman said.

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Source: Chicago Tribune | Jason Meisner