Chicago released videos on Thursday showing the fatal police shooting of Cedric Chatman, an unarmed black teenager in January 2013.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of the videos. The judge's order comes a day after the city's law department filed a motion in an ongoing wrongful death lawsuit filed by Chatman's mother to drop the protective orders covering the video of the shooting carried out by two Chicago police officers.
"With respect to the release of videos of police incidents, the City of Chicago is working to find the right balance between the public’s interest in disclosure and the importance of protecting the integrity of investigations and the judicial process,” Corporation Counsel Steve Patton said in a statement. Patton said the city had sought a protective order against releasing the footage because of its decades-long policy "that needs to be updated."
Officer Kevin Fry shot 17-year-old Chatman on Jan. 7, 2013, while he and his partner, Officer Lou Toth, were chasing the teen who was running from a stolen vehicle. In his deposition, Fry said that he thought that Chatman was holding a gun and had turned slightly towards both officers. The teen was actually holding a black iPhone box that was believed to have been taken from the carjacking. Fry fired his gun four times, striking Chatman twice.
"I was in fear of Officer Toth's life,” Fry said in his deposition. “I was in fear of my own life. And any pedestrians in the area, I was in fear of their life as well.”
The Chatman family's attorneys have argued that the videos contradict the police's version of events and prove that Chatman was not a threat to the officers.
Brian Coffman, co-counsel for the teen's mother, Linda Chatman, told USA TODAY, that the footage also showed that the officers handcuffed Chatman after he was shot and Toth stood with his foot on top of Chatman's neck. "...Like this is my kill," Coffman said. "It's awful."
The city had filed the protective order against releasing the video in early 2014 when the Chatman family filed its civil lawsuit. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration argued that the order was necessary to ensure a fair trial and to not jeopardize the proceedings in the civil lawsuit.
The city's decision on Wednesday to drop the objection comes in the wake of widespread criticism against Emanuel and the police department in their handling of the release of the video showing the fatal police shooting of another black teenager, Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Public scrutiny and outrage following the video's release in November 2015 forced the resignation of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and prompted a Department of Justice investigation into the city’s police department. Emanuel apologized for the shooting and announced a “police accountability task force” to review the department.
The Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigated Chatman's shooting, said the officer's actions were justified. However, Lorenzo Davis, the former IPRA investigator on the Chatman case, filed a federal lawsuit against the city and IPRA in 2015 alleging that he was fired for refusing to change his findings in several cases of police misconduct, including Chatman's shooting.
The lawsuit stated that IPRA ordered Davis to change his findings in at least six different cases between 2014 and 2015 and to "more favorably reflect" upon the accused officers' conducts in his reports.
Davis, who saw the Chatman surveillance footage, told The Tribune that deadly force was not called for as the teen was "just running" when the shots were fired. He said that he did not see Chatman turn or aim at the officers.
"Cedrick was just running as the shots were fired," Davis said. "I did not see where deadly force was called for at that time."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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