The city of Chicago released a video of another police officer killing an unarmed black teenager three years ago, after giving up a lengthy legal battle to keep it from the public eye.
This time, the teenager’s name was not Laquan McDonald but Cedrick Chatman.
The grainy video shows the 17-year-old Chatman fleeing the police before he is shot by Officer Kevin Fry. It’s hard to tell what happened next, but according to Chatman’s family’s attorney, Cedrick falls to the ground, is flipped onto his stomach, and is handcuffed. Fry presses his boot into Chatman’s back. The teenager died a few hours later.
Police were pursuing Chatman after he and his friends stole a car. The officers said they thought he had a gun. He was armed only with a black iPhone box. Fry claimed in his deposition that he feared for his partner’s life, as well as “any pedestrians in the area.” But U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman noted that Toth is just a few feet away from Chatman and easily could have been shot.
“[Toth was] on the heels of Chatman,” Gettleman said. “This is what bothers me. You might say he was in the line of fire.”
The city suddenly reversed its yearlong battle to suppress the video on Wednesday. As they did when fighting to bury video of Laquan McDonald’s death, members of Emanuel’s administration argued the video would inflame the public and jeopardize a fair trial in the Chatman family’s wrongful death lawsuit.
Prosecutors had also initially charged Chatman’s friends with first-degree murder, arguing that despite being nowhere near the shooting, they “set in motion a chain of events that caused the death of Cedrick Chatman.”
“I’m very disturbed by the way this happened,” Judge Gettleman said upon releasing the video. “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. I think it’s irresponsible.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez are facing massive blowback from their handling of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald. The release of that video led to nationwide protests and the ousting of top police officials, including Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Officer Jason Van Dyke is also now facing murder charges.
It’s not likely the same will happen to Fry. He was cleared by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). But as Buzzfeed points out, the former IPRA investigator on Chatman’s shooting charges in a federal lawsuit that he was fired for refusing to change his findings in Chatman’s case and several others to “more favorably reflect” upon the officers’ conduct.