Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about a deadly police-involved shooting that has set off a firestorm of protest.
Emanuel was on a business trip in Asia when the 37-year-old Harith Augusts was fatally shot Saturday in the South Shore neighborhood, but answered questions Tuesday about the shooting and the subsequent unrest. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was at his side.
The mayor called for calm from all factions, trying to assuage concerns of police activists who say the shooting was not justified, and from police officials who decry what they perceive as an anti-police sentiment. He says the city released a body camera video from the officer involved in the shooting in an effort to be transparent and to dispel rumors. But he says everything from here on out is in the hands of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability to make a determination. In the meantime, the mayor says it’s important not to jump to conclusions.
“I would ask us as a city, respectfully, whether you’re a public servant, protester, faith leader, community leader and resident, to take time, lower voices and listen to voices you may not agree with,” Emanuel said. “Everyone needs to take a step back and hear each other. A lot of times, what we do is retreat to our corners. I do firmly believe every moment’s a teachable moment.”
Warning: Graphic video. Note: This video does not include sound “due to video buffering,” CPD says.
There is other video evidence of the incident that COPA will review, and many community activists are upset that the city just released one 30-second video without any audio. That video appears to show Augustus armed and possibly reaching for a weapon while he was avoiding officers who were on foot patrol on the 2000 block of east 71st Street. The reason it doesn’t have audio is because it appears that the officer doesn’t start recording until after the shooting happens. (The way the camera works is that it picks up the 30 seconds of video prior to the officer clicking it on – but it does not pick up that prior 30 seconds of audio.)
“The technology doesn’t support getting audio and video for entire tour of duty,” said Johnson. “So the camera actually records the entire tour when it’s on, so when they tap it to activate it, the video goes back and buffers 30 seconds.”
Businesses along 71st Street said that police technicians had copied their surveillance videos. They did not tell us whether that video had caught anything of note from the incident.
There is a community protest planned for Thursday outside the mayor’s home. Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Police has taken the polar opposite view, in an official statement saying:
“This bias and self-generated hysteria by the media demonstrates a profound indifference to the burden of a police officer being involved in such an incident, even when, as in this case, the shooting is text book legitimate.”
“This shooting by the police was entirely justified,” said Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham. “The offender refused to obey the lawful commands of the police.”
All of this comes as the police have gone a year without a labor contract with the city and as the city negotiates a consent decree to have a federal judge appoint a monitor to oversee police reform.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz