A federal judge on Thursday ruled to release videos that were originally held under protective order by the city depicting the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager—17-year-old Cedrick Chatman—by a white Chicago police officer in January 2013.
The officer who fired the fatal shots was cleared by the Independent Police Review Authority and up until this week, the city had refused to release the videos that captured the incident.
We talk with Brian Coffman, an attorney representing the boy's family.
Below some highlights from our discussion.
"What you'll see in those videos are Mr. Chatman, running as fast as he can away from the police," said Coffman when asked what the videos show.
"What we've talked about is the use of excessive force in this case," he said. "I think Lorenzo Davis, who was the investigator initially with IPRA on this matter, very clearly pointed that out. That at no time Mr. Chatman was in any way causing Officer Fry or Officer Toth to be in fear of their life, for them to discharge their firearm at that time."
While representatives from the mayor's office and the police department declined our invitations to join "Chicago Tonight" to discuss the release of the videos, the mayor had this to say:
"That policy for the city has always existed, which is you don't do anything to hamper an investigation," said Emanuel. "We're in the middle of transition to a different policy as it relates to transparency in lending that material out, and the decision there is exactly an example of that."
"My response to Mayor Emanuel is just as I said earlier today after court, that the investigations in this case were long done before these videos have been released," said Coffman. "He had the opportunity to release these years ago, and he had the opportunity three weeks ago, when his city lawyers filed an opposition motion and then walked into court today to say that we're not going to fight this.
"The questions that I would have for Mr. Emanuel – and I think other individuals would – is: when did he decide this, who decided it, and why was it decided today that he was going to release this video when he's had numerous opportunities before this time."
Watch the video above to hear our full discussion with Coffman.
Videos released, IPRA's report
Above: A 32-second segment produced using raw videos provided by the city shows footage from multiple cameras on Jan. 7, 2013 that depict the shooting death of 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman, who originally sided with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to keep the videos concealed as a measure to prevent public opinion from endangering the case, ordered the release of the videos a day after the Chicago Department of Law filed a motion to drop its opposition to their release.
In a statement issued on Wednesday by the Law Department, Corporation Counsel Steve Patton addressed the city’s decision to drop its opposition and release the videos from protective order, which was established in early 2014.
“With respect to the release of videos of police incidents, the City of Chicago is working to find the right balance between the public’s interest in disclosure and the importance of protecting the integrity of investigations and the judicial process,” Patton said in the release. “In this case, the city sought a protective order consistent with its decades-long policy. We recognize the policy needs to be updated, and while we await guidance from the Task Force on Police Accountability, we are working to be as transparent as possible.”
The videos, which include surveillance footage from South Shore High School, a convenience store and the police department, were released Thursday afternoon.
Chatman was shot twice while running from police at about 1:46 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2013, following an alleged carjacking near 75th Street and Jeffrey Boulevard in the city’s South Shore neighborhood.
According to a report from the Independent Police Review Authority, officers Lou Toth and Kevin Fry—who allegedly fired the fatal gunshots—reported that Chatman ignored verbal demands to “put his hands up,” turned toward them and pointed a “dark object” at them that appeared to be a weapon. Fry, identified in the report as Officer A, fired four shots from his .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol toward Chatman “fearing for his life and the life of his partner," according to the report.
Chatman was struck in his right forearm and in the right side of his body, where the bullet passed through his liver, diaphragm, pericardial sac and heart, according to IPRA's report. The object Chatman was carrying was discovered to be an empty iPhone box that police believe was taken from inside the vehicle.
The IPRA report concludes that an allegation against Fry that he “disobeyed the Chicago Police Department’s use of deadly force policy by using excessive and unjustified deadly force against Subject 1 by shooting him to be unfounded,” and that his use of deadly force was “in compliance with the policy."
Chatman’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in May 2014 against CPD and asked that the videos of the incident be made public as the case unfolds. The family’s attorneys say that the video shows that Chatman posed no threat and never turned toward the officers.
Complete coverage from “Chicago Tonight,” including interviews with activists and officials on the shooting death of the 17-year-old in October 2014.