Editorial: Release 2nd video of police shooting

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City officials are said to be wavering in their determination not to release a dashboard camera video that shows the 2014 shooting of a black man named Ronald Johnson III.

They should stop wavering and release the video. At a time when many Chicagoans are angry about what a similar video showed of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, the city can’t appear to be stonewalling.

Police fatally shot Johnson in October 2014 after police pulled over a car in which he was riding with friends at 53rd Street and King Drive. Johnson ran, pursued by officers. Another officer pulled up, jumped out of his car and fired five times at Johnson, killing him.

Just as in the McDonald case, the police video has been under wraps. Johnson’s mother and a lawyer representing her in a wrongful death lawsuit say the video shows Johnson had nothing in his hands as he ran. They say the video shows the officer beginning to fire within seconds of leaving his car. They want a Cook County judge to order the video be released publicly.

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Police say Johnson was a known gang member, that he was armed and that they found the gun at the scene.

It’s possible the dashcam video could go a long way toward establishing whether Johnson was armed and whether Police Officer George Hernandez was justified in pulling the trigger. That’s why the video should be now be public.

Chicagoans have protesting on the streets over the McDonald case partly because authorities dragged their heels for more than a year in releasing that video. The city made it public only after being ordered to do so by a Cook County judge.

Citizens also have been frustrated because the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates alleged police misconduct, takes so long to complete its work. Fourteen months after the Johnson shooting, it is fair to ask why a thorough investigation wasn’t completed long ago.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez on Tuesday told the Chicago Tribune that the office is weighing possible criminal charges Officer Hernandez. We certainly hope that isn’t going to be used as an excuse for more delay.

For years, the city’s policy has been to not release evidence when a criminal investigation is pending. That’s a policy that needs updating when case after case drags on for more than a year. Yes, justice must be done, but the public also has a right to know what happened.

Authorities have good reason to keep evidence out of the public eye for a reasonable period of time. Investigators want witnesses to testify from their own memories, not from what they saw on a video. If someone is charged, prosecutors don’t want a defendant to shape a story that takes into account what’s on the video. If there’s a grand jury, it takes time to get all the witnesses to come in and testify. All that explains why it’s valid to keep a video under wraps at first.

But after more than a year, it looks more like concealing evidence. The city shouldn’t stoke fears that it is trying to hide something.

Release the video.

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