It has been 411 days since the cold-blooded execution of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black youngster, by a Chicago police officer.
The facts are still coming out as I write this article. Here’s what we know so far … and no thanks to the Chicago Tribune, which by its inaction was complicit in the cover-up. None of these facts would be known had it not been for a freelance journalist named Brandon Smith, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the data Aug. 5. It was initially denied; finally he sought and successfully obtained a court order from Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama, who ordered the city to release the police dashboard camera video by Nov. 24, 111 days later.
The cover-up ― by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez, the governing board of the City of Chicago, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the Chicago police officers involved in the shooting and the Chicago unit investigating the incident ― completely fell apart and was exposed by the work of Brandon Smith. While many other news outlets worked this story in an attempt to reach the truth, the Chicago Tribune was missing in action.
The case has been settled. The city, by a vote of 47-0, approved and paid a $5 million settlement to Laquan McDonald’s family.
OK, let’s take a closer look at what happened. On Oct. 20, 2014, the 17-year-old Laquan ― high on some sort of drug ― was shot and killed as he pranced down a Chicago street. I say “pranced” because he was hipping and hopping like any teenager. In his right hand, he held a 3-inch knife. (This is important because his right hand was opposite the side where the officer who murdered him would be standing.)
An officer arrived on the scene late. In six seconds, he pulled his gun. The young black man went down immediately. While he lay on the ground, the cop emptied his gun into him. He was reloading when other officers restrained him.
With knowledge of what had actually happened, the Police Department investigation concluded the shooting was justified because Laquan had advanced on the officer “in a threatening manner,” using “an underhand grip, blade forward, swinging knife in aggressive, exaggerated manner.” The lie continued, as the officer claimed that he told McDonald to drop the knife, but that he ignored the instructions and advanced on the officer.
To compound this lie, the other officers on scene provided similar accounts. They added a fact “fact”: After being shot, they claimed, he tried to get up off the ground and advance on the cop who’d shot him.
In the news just a few days ago, it was revealed that these officers’ reports were false.
So, you may ask, what is my point here? Murder is one thing … but a total political cover-up is something else. The Illinois Attorney General should have asked for (and maybe did) a complete independent investigation of the Police Department. But given the state of Chicago political shenanigans, the U.S. Department of Justice should also be asked to conduct a full and complete investigation. If and when they do, the sacrificial lamb ― the Police Commissioner ― won’t be the only one out of a job.
I’m ashamed that my president, Barack Obama, didn’t call for the removal or resignation of his former adviser, Rahm Emanuel, who presides over the city of Chicago. An impartial investigation will (not “should”) result in charges against those who filed false reports, as well as their termination.
With all these known facts, why in the name of all that’s holy did the Police Union post bond for this assassin? Instead of raising funds for his family, why did they not just give up the buddy system and admit this incident and its investigation were a disaster from the start?
One of the elected members of the Chicago City Council insisted he didn’t think a federal investigation was warranted. Then it was disclosed he was a retired police officer. I thought the “brotherhood of silence” was something made up for the movies. Not so, it’s real and active. The question is where does this occur, and what resources will be put into police reform.
This brings me to the local Chicago media, which took no action until one individual activist reporter got the job done. He alone exposed this cover-up for what it is ― a national disgrace. Since then, the New York Times and national media have really hopped on board. But then again, they were not the ones who were complicit in what happened and its ugly aftermath.
I’m thankful I live in this community. We in the Moorhead-Fargo area are well served by our police and sheriffs’ departments and state police on both sides of the river. We also have great newspaper and television outlets and radio talk-show hosts who ― had anything like this happened around here ― would have been on it like fleas on a dog. I can’t in my worst nightmare envision our local governing bodies doing anything but the right thing.
With the revelation of the Chicago cover-up, I’m no longer as suspicious of other claims of incidents being hidden, ignored and willfully concealed in major cities. I am hopeful that this still-developing story will give all of us pause and result in reform where it is needed.
This is a story that never should have had feet ― because it never should have happened. Stay tuned for more developments. This horse has left the barn and is still running free.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget to mention one more damning fact: After one year, States Attorney Alvarez charged the police officer with murder ― on the same day the videotape that exposed the whole corrupt cover-up was released to the public.