CHICAGO – Dashcam and body camera videos of a fatal police shooting of an 18-year-old suspect last week suggests violations of departmental policy, Chicago’s police superintendent said Sunday, indicating that top police brass are moving more swiftly to scrutinize officer-involved shootings than in the past.
Eddie Johnson spoke at a news conference a day after relieving a third officer in the shooting of his police powers; the same action was taken against two other officers Friday. Autopsy results showed that Paul O’Neal, of Chicago, died of a gunshot wound to the back during a stolen vehicle investigation in the city’s South Shore neighborhood.
Videos of the Thursday night shooting left Johnson with “more questions than answers,” he said.
“As it appears, right now, departmental policy may have been violated during the incident,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Relieving officers of their police powers is considered a more serious step than putting officers on desk duty, which is routinely done after an officer-involved shooting. Officers relieved of police powers must turn in their badges and can’t make arrests.
Some activists and longtime police critics say they’re encouraged by Johnson’s response in the O’Neal case. That includes Jedidiah Brown, of the Young Leaders Alliance.
“I think that he gets it,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune. “Officers out there in the past have been very indifferent or disrespectful. This seems like a complete change of leadership.”
A message seeking comment from the head of the police union, Dean C. Angelo, Sr., wasn’t returned Sunday.
Authorities have said officers stopped a Jaguar convertible that had been reported stolen. Police said officers opened fire after the driver, identified as O’Neal, put the car in drive and sideswiped a squad car and a parked vehicle. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
O’Neal was black; police have not provided any identifying information about the officers who were involved.
The handling of officer-involved shootings in Chicago has come under intense scrutiny since the release last November of a video that shows a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times.
Investigators from Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, are looking into the O’Neal shooting, and said the footage would be posted online within 60 days, per new city policy.
Johnson is walking a fine line between winning community trust and not appearing to turn on officers, as indicated by his Sunday comments.
“I am committed to keeping my promise to all Chicagoans to restore that faith, while also never losing sight of the courage, commitment and sacrifice the men and women of the Chicago police department make each and every day,” he said.
He added that he understood officers must make split-second decisions, while others can later view video and other evidence to decide whether officers acting appropriately or not.
“If it’s an honest mistake we will get them training, coaching and mentoring,” he said. “If it is intentional misconduct, then they have to be held accountable.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.