Emboldened by the furor over police shootings in Chicago, lawyers for another black teenager gunned down by police nearly three years ago after allegedly stealing a car are fighting to take the images of his final moments public.
So far, City Hall has fought back.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Brown shot down an attempt last month by the family of Cedrick Chatman to make public the video of the 17-year-old’s Jan. 7, 2013 shooting death. The case is the subject of a federal lawsuit, and the judge issued her ruling the same day a Cook County judge ordered City Hall to release video footage of a Chicago police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times. Chatman family attorney Brian Coffman is now set to ask U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman on Dec. 9 to overrule Brown.
He said the Chatman video can no longer taint a jury.
“Everyone across the country knows what’s going on in Chicago,” Coffman said.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Davis, a former top investigator for the city’s Independent Police Review Authority who said he was fired earlier this year for resisting orders to justify police shootings, said Wednesday that he saw the video of Chatman’s death before his dismissal. His lawyer, Torreya Hamilton, said the Chatman case led to Davis’ dismissal from IPRA.
Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times that Chatman’s shooting death was an “unnecessary use of deadly force” — and a murder.
“You don’t kill a person unless you have to,” Davis said.
The officer who pulled the trigger has said that he feared for his partner’s life when Chatman made a “slight” turn of his torso during a foot chase, records show. The shooting was ultimately justified in an IPRA report that indicated Fry saw “a dark colored object” in Chatman’s hand that he thought could be a firearm. An IPRA spokesman did not comment on Davis’ allegations. A spokesman for City Hall’s law department also did not comment on the case.
The controversy might have repercussions for embattled Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Even though IPRA found Chatman’s shooting was justified, records show Chatman’s two accomplices in the carjacking were charged with Chatman’s murder because the carjacking ultimately led to Chatman’s death. They later pleaded guilty to lesser crimes.
An Alvarez spokeswoman did not comment. A Chicago police official said both officers involved in Chatman’s death remain on full-duty status in the Bureau of Patrol.
Hamilton called Davis, a former Chicago Police commander, a “hero” for coming forward with his allegations against IPRA. She said it’s important for the public to see the video of Chatman’s death, especially in the midst of a controversy over police shootings which has led Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, and which has led Attorney General Lisa Madigan to call for a federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department. Activists continue to call for Emanuel and Alvarez to resign.
“The public really, at this point in Chicago, can’t trust anyone,” Hamilton said. “They need to trust themselves. Which is why we need transparency.”
The shooting happened after Chatman allegedly stole a car on Jan. 7, 2013. His two friends were involved in an earlier incident with Chatman but were not in the stolen car at the time Chatman drove away. Chicago Police Officers Lou Toth and Kevin Fry found Chatman in a gray Dodge Charger at East 75th and Jeffrey, pulled over and jumped out with weapons drawn, records show. Toth came around the front of the Charger, while Fry ran around the rear.
Chatman bolted out of the car and ran south, away from the officers. Toth ran directly behind Chatman, while Fry followed diagonally, according to the Chatman family’s lawsuit.
Officers claimed Chatman made a “slight” turn of his upper torso to the right, prompting Fry to fire his weapon four times, according to the lawsuit. Toth claimed he did not fire, even though Coffman said five bullets were recovered at the scene. Chatman was shot twice, Coffman said.
However, Coffman said footage of the incident was caught on video at a nearby high school, a CPD blue-light camera and a fish-eye camera on the side of a building. Davis said Chatman can be seen on one of those videos turning his body to duck between two cars. Davis said that motion did not correspond with Fry’s gunshots. Davis also said the object in Chatman’s hand turned out to be an iPhone box.
Chatman did not fall immediately when Fry’s first shot was fired, Davis said. Rather, he said Chatman ducked down and kept running.
City lawyers sought an order last year prohibiting release of the video, claiming it could taint the jury pool and make it difficult for the city to have a fair trial. They also said it gives an incomplete picture of the events.
“All that can be seen, rather than the decedent and the officer who was chasing him, are two blurs, moving away from the stolen vehicle and down a sidewalk,” city lawyers wrote. “There is no sound on the video. What the video does show clearly is an officer pointing his gun at the decedent for a short period of time and the decedent collapsing to the sidewalk.”
Before the shooting, records show that Chatman had helped Akeem Clarke and Martel Odum carjack a vehicle at 76th and Essex. A man and a woman were in the car; Clarke, Odum and Chatman beat the man and demanded money from the victims, court records indicate. They took $400, a cellphone and the man’s shoes; as well as a coat, shoes, $40 and a cellphone from the woman. That woman fled down an alley, where someone helped her by giving her a ride home.
Clarke, Odum and Chatman continued to beat the man, then pulled him out of the Dodge as witnesses approached, authorities say. The victim crawled across the street and saw the three men searching his car. Odom then crossed the street and demanded money from him again, court records said. Chatman got into the Charger and drove away.
Contributing: Andy Grimm, Jordan Owen