Chicago Officials Release Footage Showing Police Misconduct That Led To Unarmed Black Teen’s Death

In this video screengrab, an officer can be seen open fire into a car driven by Paul O’Neal. CREDIT: SCREENSHOT
In this video screengrab, an officer can be seen open fire into a car driven by Paul O’Neal. CREDIT: SCREENSHOT

On Friday, Chicago officials released videos showing the July 28 killing of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal by city police officers. You can watch them here.

The footage, from dash and body cams, reveals that officers didn’t follow procedure in the chaotic moments that led to O’Neal, who was unarmed, being shot in the back. On July 28 at around 7:30 p.m., officers tried to pull O’Neal over after he was identified as driving a stolen Jaguar convertible in Chicago’s predominately African American South Shore neighborhood. As he fled, striking police vehicles, two officers sprayed the Jaguar with bullets. O’Neal eventually ​got out of the car and ​ran for a residential backyard, where a third officer fatally shot him. A body cam worn by the officer who shot the fatal round wasn’t on at the time for reasons that remain unclear.

Conversations captured by body cameras reveals officers thought O’Neal had shot at them. In fact, they were hearing the sound of their own bullets. Furthermore, as the Chicago Tribune reports, Chicago PD policy prohibits officers from firing into vehicles if the vehicle is the sole source of a threat.

Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson has already stripped the three officers who shot at O’Neal of their police powers. The O’Neal family is suing the Chicago PD. Shortly after the footage was released, Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney representing the O’Neals, called the footage “beyond horrific.”

“There is no question in my mind that criminal acts were committed,” Oppenheimer said. “What I saw was pretty cold-blooded.”

In a statement released around the same time as the video footage, Independent Police Review Authority Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley called the video “shocking and disturbing.”

“The investigation into this tragic event is still very much in the early stages. But we are proceeding as deliberately and expediently as possible in pursuit of a swift but fair determination,” the statement continues. “As with every investigation, where we believe information can be released to the public without jeopardizing the investigation, we do so, even if it is before the 60-day timeline outlined in the City’s transparency policy.”

Chicago Mayor Holds On For Dear Life In The Face Of Chicago’s Continuing Police CorruptionIt’s been six months since the video of Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting…thinkprogress.orgOfficials’ handling of the O’Neal videos stands in contrast to how the city handled footage of Officer Jason Van Dyke killing Laquan McDonald with 16 shots in October 2014. The city kept the McDonald dash cam footage from the public for over a year. Van Dyke was finally charged with first degree murder less than a day before the footage was finally released in November of last year. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s handling of that incident, among other controversies, resulted in her being ousted from office in March by Kim Foxx, a former assistant state’s attorney backed by Black Lives Matter activists.

The same day that the O’Neal footage was released, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill requiring students who take drivers education classes to learn how to respond if they’re pulled over by police.

One of the sponsors of the bill, state Sen. Julie Morrison (D), said she thinks the legislation is “really timely, so that teenagers and young drivers don’t look at a police officer as a threat or a problem… It’s just a part of driving, and if they respond in a responsible, correct way, it should never escalate,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

O’Neal is one of 640 people killed by police officers in the United States so far this year, according to numbers compiled by the Guardian.