At every stage, the instinct of the culture is to circle the wagons and enforce a false narrative.”

 —Freelance journalist Jamie Kalven, who broke the Laquan McDonald story

Crime is bad enough.

A code of silence is worse.

It continues to be true in the case of David Koschman. I’ll get to that in a moment.

And it’s true in the case of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by one Chicago Police officer in October 2014 as other officers who chose restraint looked on.

Now, by virtue of an order by Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama, video of the McDonald shooting must be released so the public can see what neither Mayor Emanuel nor CPD has wanted us to see for 13 months.


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The teenager was killed in a tumultuous time. Ferguson, Missouri, had recently jumped off in riots after a police shooting of a young man, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel was entering a tougher-than-expected re-election battle.

The police department and the police union both quickly put out stories about how McDonald continued to approach the officer and therefore was shot. The story would have disappeared had it not been for an anonymous city employee telling freelance journalist Jamie Kalven and University of Chicago civil rights attorney Craig Futterman that video would tell a very different story.

But it took until five days after Emanuel’s April election victory for the City Council to learn about the incident, when it was asked to give the McDonald family $5 million without the family ever filing a lawsuit.

That same day, the city approved a much smaller sum, $250,000, to Nanci Koschman, mother of 21-year-old David, who died from a single punch at the hands of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew, R.J. Vanecko in 2004.

“I see a connection between both cases in which there are efforts by CPD to potentially cover up wrongdoing by its own people or people who are politically connected,” said attorney Matt Topic, an expert on the Freedom of Information Act who has sued for information in the McDonald case and is still doing so in Koschman.

In each case, police argued the dead young man had caused his own death. McDonald by refusing to stop approaching the officer. And Koschman by being the “aggressor.”

In each case, the person who killed them, according to police, was acting in “self-defense.” But in both Koschman and McDonald cases, there were credible allegations that police tried to alter or suppress witness testimony; in each case video from businesses in the area went missing; and in each case the City of Chicago and the police department fought to deny or delay media FOIA requests.

In Koschman, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy actually promoted the case supervisor to chief of detectives even though he is still under investigation by the city inspector general for allegedly manufacturing evidence to exonerate the mayor’s nephew.

Is there any wonder why citizens distrust government when government keeps the public’s own information out of public view?


Follow Carol Marin on Twitter: @CarolMarin