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Police videos of teen who officials say shot himself ‘inconclusive,’ family says

Andrew M. Stroth, Civil Rights Attorney, speaks outside Crane High School at a press conference on the development of the Steve Rosenthal case on August 28, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Andrew M. Stroth, Civil Rights Attorney, speaks outside Crane High School at a press conference on the development of the Steve Rosenthal case on August 28, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Family members of Steven Rosenthal said Tuesday that Chicago police have shown them body camera recordings of the 15-year-old boy’s run-in with officers earlier this month in Lawndale, but they still aren’t convinced the boy fatally shot himself in the head as authorities have insisted.

“The videos are inconclusive. The family has more questions than they do answers,” attorney Andrew Stroth said during a press conference outside Crane High School, where Rosenthal played guard for the boys basketball team.

Relatives saw three body camera feeds that captured the moments before and after the Aug. 17 encounter near Rosenthal’s home in the 1500 block of South Keeler, according to Stroth. But the controversial gunshot that has spurred several protest marches — and highlighted the deep-seated mistrust between the community and the police department — is not visible.

“It shows Steven going up the stairs. It shows officers coming after him, and then you don’t see anything until you see Steven dead on the upstairs landing,” Stroth said.

Police have said officers spotted the boy with a gun, and that he ran when they tried to stop him. He then “tragically used the weapon on himself,” CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted within 90 minutes of the incident.

An autopsy conducted the next day by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Rosenthal’s death a suicide, though the full autopsy report won’t be released for several weeks.

“My family does not appreciate what’s being said about his character,” Rosenthal’s uncle Dashaun Thomas said Tuesday. “There was never any sign of suicidal thoughts. He was a happy kid.”

Standing behind the family at the press conference was Bulls star Jabari Parker, a childhood friend of Thomas. The NBA player met Rosenthal when the boy participated in his basketball camp.

“My camp is based around family. And I lost a person in my family,” Parker said, adding that he “was just more confused than anything” by the case “because I knew what type of kid he was.”

NBA player Jabari Parker speaks outside Crane High School at a press conference on the development of the Steve Rosenthal case on August 28, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

NBA player Jabari Parker speaks outside Crane High School at a press conference on the development of the Steve Rosenthal case on August 28, 2018. | Colin Boyle/Sun-Times

Stroth called on police to reveal what prompted the foot chase, to release the names of the officers involved and to describe the weapon they claim — and which the family rejects — Rosenthal was carrying.

The attorney also said the family has hired an investigator and a doctor whose “analysis did not indicate suicide.” Stroth claims the bullet entered the left side of Rosenthal’s head and exited on the right, which he said raises questions about how the right-handed teen could have turned a gun on himself.

“We’re not sure exactly what happened,” Stroth said. “But there are eyewitness reports that strongly contradict the narrative given by police.”

Guglielmi confirmed that police Supt. Eddie Johnson met with Rosenthal’s family to show them the videos but pointed to previous statements on the shooting.

“Based on ballistics and camera evidence, no police officer fired any weapon during the encounter,” Guglielmi said. “The independent office of the Cook County Medical Examiner ruled this tragic death a suicide based on autopsy and physical evidence. Our thoughts go out to his family and we extend our deepest condolences on this very difficult loss.”

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability and Illinois State Police are reviewing the case.