AFRICANGLOBE – Videos from the fatal shooting of teenager Paul O’Neal by Chicago police show officers firing into a car that was being driven away from them and, later, officers handcuffing O’Neal as he lay wounded behind a home.
Acting with uncharacteristic swiftness, Chicago officials on Friday released nine videos showing events leading up to the shooting of O’Neal, 18, last week.
The release came around 11 a.m. Friday, less than two hours after the head of the Chicago police oversight agency said the video footage was “shocking and disturbing” and that her heart goes out to the family of O’Neal.
The dead teen’s family was so distraught after viewing videos at the Independent Police Review Authority headquarters Friday morning that they left without making any public comment, their lawyer told reporters.
“It is one of the most horrific things I have seen,” Michael Oppenheimer, the family’s lawyer, said of the videos.
The videos show police shooting into a car in the moments before O’Neal tried to escape them and an officer fatally shot him in the back.
The fatal shots are not shown on video but can be heard.
The video clearly shows officers firing down the street at the car as it speeds away.
The city’s use of force policy explicitly bars police from shooting into a car when the vehicle represents the only danger.
The videos are laden with profanity. “I think I shot that motherf*cker, man,” one officer can be heard to say. He tells other officers the person he shot is lying three houses over. “Think I’m good — bunch of shots,” the officer says.
Sharon Fairley, chief administrator of IPRA, said in a statement that the agency is proceeding “as deliberately and expediently as possible in pursuit of a swift but fair determination” into the Black teen’s shooting last week.
Fairley said the footage “as shocking and disturbing as it is, is not the only evidence to be gathered and analyzed when conducting a fair and thorough assessment of (the) conduct of police officers in performing their duties.”
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson took quick action after the shooting, stripping three officers of their police powers and saying it appeared they had violated departmental policies. O’Neal’s family is suing the department.
Chicago police officers tried to stop O’Neal about 7:30 p.m. July 28 in the South Shore neighborhood as he drove a Jaguar convertible reported stolen in suburban Bolingbrook, police said. Surveillance cameras tied O’Neal and three others to a spree of car thefts, officials in the suburb said.
O’Neal struck two Chicago police vehicles in the sports car, and two officers fired at him while he was in the car, authorities said. O’Neal fled from the car, police said, and a third officer chased him behind a home. After O’Neal allegedly refused to stop, the officer shot him.
O’Neal, who was unarmed, died of a gunshot wound to the back, authorities said.
The shooting itself was not captured on video, department officials said, even though the officer who chased and shot O’Neal was wearing a body camera. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pointed to body cameras as a tool to build trust in the police; department officials have not said why the camera did not record the shooting.
The city’s quick moves after O’Neal’s shooting show how much has changed in the eight months since the release of video of a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer who shot McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, is charged with murder.
The McDonald video — and long-simmering dissatisfaction with police use of force among many African-Americans — led to sustained protests, and the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation to determine whether police had systematically violated residents’ rights. Federally enforced changes could come from that ongoing investigation, and Emanuel has announced or enacted a raft of reforms to policing and officer oversight.
Johnson broke with tradition by saying police appeared to have violated departmental policy in the O’Neal case. The superintendent, who was appointed by Emanuel amid the political crisis sparked by the McDonald video, issued an unusual department-wide memo saying that the information he had on the shooting “left (him) with more questions than answers.”
The case also represents an about-face for city officials who have previously fought to prevent the release of videos of police shootings for as long as possible. In February, Emanuel announced the city would start releasing videos of shootings and other major uses of force within two to three months. Friday’s release came just eight days after the shooting.
The three officers are stripped of police authority pending an internal investigation and an inquiry by IPRA, which is also in transition. As detailed in a recent investigation, IPRA has long conducted superficial investigations and recommended light punishments.
Emanuel has announced plans to abolish the agency and replace it with a more effective department, though neither he nor his allies have announced any details. Meanwhile, IPRA’s leader, former federal prosecutor Fairley, has sought to reform the department even as it faces its demise.
Under Fairley, who was appointed in the wake of the McDonald video’s release, IPRA has ruled more police shootings unjustified in the past two months than it had in the prior nine years.
Two of the shootings IPRA recently ruled unjustified involved officers shooting at vehicles, as they appear to have done in O’Neal’s case. In both of the shootings ruled unjustified, IPRA determined the officers faced no serious danger when they fired.
The department revised its deadly force rules in February 2015 to ban firing into a vehicle when the automobile is the only force used against an officer or bystander.
Paul O’Neal Video – FULL POLICE FOOTAGE