CHICAGO—A judge on Thursday ordered the
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled that the police department must release the video by Wednesday. It documents the Oct. 20, 2014 killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who police said was holding a small knife when he was fatally shot by a police officer.
For months, city officials had declined to release the video, citing an ongoing federal grand jury probe of the incident. Police say that McDonald, who had PCP in his system at the time of his death and refused to drop the knife, had been acting erratically before the police officer opened fire.
Police had started their pursuit of McDonald after receiving a 911 call from someone who said that a knife-wielding man had threatened him and appeared to be trying to break into cars.
A union official suggested to reporters soon after the incident that the officer was acting in self-defense. McDonald's family attorneys and some witness, however, said that the teen was walking away from the police officer when he was shot. Five other police officers at the scene did not fire their weapons.
"The city’s Independent Police Review Authority promptly sent this case and the evidence to state and federal prosecutors who have been investigating it for almost a year," Emanuel said in a statement. "In accordance with the judge’s ruling the city will release the video by November 25, which we hope will provide prosecutors time to expeditiously bring their investigation to a conclusion so Chicago can begin to heal."
The incident happened about two months after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in
McDonald's family has said through their attorneys that they worry that release of the potentially inflammatory video could unleash unrest in Chicago. McDonald is black and the police officer who shot him is white.
"What's important is that the community be told the truth about what happened, about how he was shot," said
Chicago's city council voted in April to pay McDonald's family $5 million. As part of the settlement, a judge barred attorneys from releasing the video footage.
Thursday's decision was triggered by a lawsuit brought by Brandon Smith, an independent journalist, who had a Freedom of Information Act request for the video denied in May.
No charges have been filed against the police officer.
Earlier this month, the office of the Illinois Attorney General
"We expected this ruling, we're glad for this ruling," said Matt Topic, an attorney for the journalist Smith, after the judge issued his ruling. "The Illinois Attorney General has ruled on this, the court has now ruled on this. It's time for the city to release this video and not continue this fight."
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