Chicago mayor fires police chief after video of Laquan McDonald's death released

Chicago's police chief was ousted on Tuesday following days of unrest over video footage showing the shooting of a black teenager and the filing of murder charges against a white police officer in the young man's death.

Release of video showing white police officer shooting black teen took 13 months

Chicago police chief gets boot

6 years ago
Mayor Rahm Emanuel asks for Garry McCarthy's resignation over shooting video controversy 1:05

Chicago's police chief was ousted on Tuesday after days of protest over a white officer's shooting of a black teenager 16 times and the department's refusal to release a video of the killing for more than a year. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference that he had asked Garry McCarthy, police superintendent since May 2011, to resign. The mayor also said he was creating a new police accountability task force. 

The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged a week ago with first-degree murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald. The video was released on the same day. 

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officials in U.S. cities have fuelled demonstrations for some two years, stoking a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

The mayor, a Democrat and the former chief of staff to U.S. President Barack Obama, said he was responsible for what happened in the case, the same as the police superintendent.

"I'm responsible. I don't shirk that responsibility," Emanuel said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are shown in this November photo. On Tuesday, Emanuel asked for McCarthy's resignation following the release of a video that shows a police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

He added that the creation of the task force was meant to rebuild trust in the police department of one of the country's largest cities. Emanuel said McCarthy had become "a distraction."

In an editorial on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times had called for McCarthy's resignation. The Chicago City Council black caucus and some protesters had also called for him to leave. The Conference of National Black Churches applauded his dismissal.

But Dean Angelo, president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police, said: "We're surprised that at this time, with everything that was going on, that a change at the top would occur. We thought the mayor was supportive of the superintendent."

Street violence an issue for mayor

Policing and street violence have emerged as leading issues for Emanuel since his election in April to a second term after being forced into a runoff.

The mayor, McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez have faced criticism for taking 13 months to release the video of the 2014 shooting and to charge Van Dyke.

By naming a commission and removing McCarthy, Emanuel could be hoping to deflect criticism of his own handling of the case.

Soon after Emanuel's re-election, the city agreed to a $5-million settlement with the 17-year-old's fam

The video shows Van Dyke gunning down McDonald in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014, as McDonald was walking away from police who had confronted him. 

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday in Chicago. He is charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

Van Dyke, 37, was released from jail on Monday after posting bond on a $1.5-million bail. Protests followed the charging and arrest of Van Dyke and the release of the video on Nov. 24.

The civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, voiced disappointment in Emanuel's handling of the matter and called for an independent investigation led by a special prosecutor. He predicted protests would continue.

More protests were expected in the city on Tuesday night, according to organizers. Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said: "Blame Rahm Emanuel. He hired McCarthy, he set his parameters, and he fired him."

Cornell William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, accused the city of "generational police misconduct and police brutality."

5-member panel

Emanuel said the new five-member task force will be advised by former Massachusetts governor and Chicago native Deval Patrick.

A former government civil rights lawyer, Patrick said he hoped to help restore the community's confidence in the police and rebuild the system of accountability.

The panel, due to make its recommendations by March 31, aims to boost independent oversight of police misconduct, ensure officers with repeated complaints are evaluated and forge a process for releasing videos of police incidents, Emanuel said.

Community activists and labour leaders held a demonstration billed as a "march for justice" in Chicago on Friday in the wake of the release of video showing an officer fatally shooting Laquan McDonald. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

Federal authorities have had an open criminal investigation into the shooting since April, and the U.S. Department of Justice might still investigate the police force, as it did in Ferguson, Miss., and Baltimore following deaths involving officers and unarmed black men.

On Tuesday afternoon, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on the DOJ's civil rights division to investigate Chicago police practices, including use of deadly force and the adequacy of its investigation of misconduct allegations.

In another incident, a lawyer representing the family of a 25-year-old man killed by Chicago police on Oct. 12, 2014, told reporters that a dashboard camera video of the shooting that would challenge the police version of events could be released by court order as early as Dec. 10.

Ronald Johnson III was running from police when Officer George Hernandez arrived and seconds later shot him in the back, lawyer Michael Oppenheimer said. Police said Johnson had a gun and turned toward officers before being shot.

In a Chicago courtroom, a 21-year-old University of Illinois-Chicago college student was released on Tuesday on $4,500 bond following his arrest for threatening to kill 16 white male students or staff to avenge McDonald's killing.

Judge Susan Cox ordered Jabari Dean to remain in home detention, except for school, religious services and appointments related to the case. He was also ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation.


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