CHICAGO -- City attorneys on Thursday released grainy 2013 surveillance video showing the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old black carjacking suspect by a white police officer.
A federal judge granted the release hours earlier after the city withdrew its objection to it being made public under intense pressure from activists demanding more transparency and reforms to a police department under scrutiny over cases of alleged misconduct.
An officer killed Cedrick Chatman on Jan. 7, 2013, during a foot chase. Court documents say several surveillance cameras recorded police running after the 17-year-old in a South Shore neighborhood during daylight hours and recorded one officer fatally shooting him.
His family had asked that the video be made public as it sued the city over the shooting, arguing it would counter the city's narrative that Chatman posed a danger to police.
The officer had said he fired after seeing Chatman turn toward officers with a dark object in his hand. Investigators later found the object was an iPhone box.
Questions about the Chatman video followed the Nov. 24 release of another video that made headlines. That video shows white officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The city fought its release for more than a year, making it public only after a state court ordered it to do so. The video and the delay in releasing it led to protests, calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign and a federal civil-rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department.
CBS Chicago reports that one video from a Chicago Police blue light camera above the intersection shows a very brief foot chase before Officer Kevin Fry discharged his weapon. Only a few seconds elapse from the time officers give chase and Chatman is on the ground.
A lawyer for Chatman's family previously said the video would show he never turned toward officers and posed no threat.
City attorneys, until Wednesday, fought to keep it under seal on grounds its release could taint any jury pool should the civil case go to trial. They said in a Wednesday court filing that the city was dropping its opposition in an effort to be more transparent while it waits for a recently created special task force to review policies regarding the release of videos showing disputed police shootings.
Steve Patton, Emanuel's top legal adviser said in a statement that "we are working to be as transparent as possible."
CBS Chicago reports that Chatman family attorney Brian Coffman has said the move by the city is a political move to get ahead of the game.
"If Mr. Emanuel really wants to stand by his words of transparency and change, here's his opportunity to do it," he said. "If that means releasing the videos, great. But given the timing of it, it makes it a little suspect."
The cameras that caught the incident were at a distance and the footage is of low quality, court filings say. But Chatman family lawyers have said it is clear enough to show the teenager didn't turn.
Andrew Hale, a lawyer for two officers named as defendants in the lawsuit, said in an email Wednesday that the video will show his clients acted properly. Minutes before the shooting, he said, Chatman refused officers' orders and jumped out of a car after grabbing the item that turned out to be the box.
"As he was fleeing, the suspect turned toward the officers, with the dark object in his right hand, causing one officer to open fire," Hale's email said.
The Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police shootings, cleared the officer who shot Chatman of any wrongdoing. However, court filings allege that the agency cleared the officer only after an investigator who opposed that finding, Lorenzo Davis, was fired. Davis has filed a separate lawsuit about his dismissal. IPRA has declined to comment on Davis' case because the litigation is ongoing.
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