Video footage was released on Friday of the shooting death of Paul O’Neal, an 18-year-old unarmed Black man, by a Chicago police officer on July 28.
O’Neal was suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, and a chase with police ensued. Video footage shows officers handcuffing O’Neal after he is shot and bleeding on the ground. O’Neal was unarmed and shot in the back.
Dash cam and body cam footage was made public. But the officer who fired the fatal shots did not have their body cam turned on at the time, so the shooting itself was not recorded.
Three of the officers involved may have violated policy in the fatal shooting, said Eddie Johnson, the city’s police superintendent, in a weekend conference.
“A lot of people are upset by what they saw,” Johnson said on Saturday, “and quite honestly, they have a right to be upset.”
18-year-old Paul O’Neal was suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, and a chase with police ensued. Video footage shows officers handcuffing O’Neal after he is shot and bleeding on the ground. O’Neal was unarmed and shot in the back.
Johnson could not provide specific details, citing the ongoing investigation.
“What I can say is that I was concerned by some of the things that I saw in the videos, and that’s why we took such a swift action that we did last week to relieve the three officers of their police powers,” he added.
According to Johnson, the officer’s body cam being turned off is under investigation but also added that the officers in that district had only had body cams for about a week prior to the shooting.
“There’s going to be a learning curve,” he said.
Departmental policy regarding body cams states, “During the recording of an incident, Department members will not disengage the BWC [body worn camera] until the entire incident has been recorded or when further recording of the incident will not serve a proper police purpose. In the event of an arrest, the incident is concluded when the subject is transported to the district station.”
Among other things, officers are required to record all foot and vehicle pursuits, situations that may enhance the probability of evidence-based prosecution and any encounter with the public that becomes adversarial after the initial contact.
According to Johnson, firing at or into a moving vehicle if the car is considered a suspect’s only means of force violates department policy. The three officers directly involved in the shooting have not been publicly identified.
He called the release of the videos “the beginning of a more transparent process of how we investigate use of force incidents.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson, president and founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and civil rights activist, pointed to the lack of footage of the shooting itself as a cover-up.
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) August 5, 2016
O’Neal’s family filed a wrongful death suit last week, naming the Chicago Police Department and the three officers involved. The family’s lawyer, Michael Oppenheimer, said the videos show the police “execute” O’Neal and called the footage “beyond horrific.”
“What I saw was cold-blooded murder,” he said.
Protests began over the weekend, with demonstrators chanting, “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and the names of other Black men who have been killed by police in Chicago, including Cedrick Chatman and Laquan McDonald.
Body Cam Policies and Transparency
Citizens have called for more transparency in the city of Chicago following the fatal shooting of McDonald. McDonald was killed by Jason Van Dyke, a former police officer, in October 2014. Video footage of his death was not released until 400 days after the shooting.
The video shows the 17-year-old being shot while he is walking away from officers, and being shot repeatedly as he is already lying on the ground. Van Dyke left his police vehicle and started shooting within six seconds. He shot for about 15 seconds — 13 of which McDonald was already collapsed on the ground.
In February, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the Chicago Police Department would be required to release evidence pertaining to a police shooting or other incident of misconduct — including video footage — to be made public within 60 days. The recommendation came from the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, which Emanuel created following the city’s heavy criticism of the police department and of Emanuel himself.
With such a national spotlight on video evidence and the demand for transparency, police departments around the country have started implementing body cams and policies. But as the practice is, in most cases, still in very early stages, policies and requirements are still being strengthened.
A study updated last week concluded that of 50 United States police departments with body cam policies, none of them are yet effectively and appropriately implementing their policies. The study began in November and is periodically revised to account for changes to policies. According to “Police Body Worn Cameras: A Policy Scorecard,” Chicago’s body cam policy scores six out of eight among the criteria reviewed for the study.