Chicago Tribune Fights for Laquan McDonald Records

CHICAGO (CN) – The Chicago Tribune filed a lawsuit against the city’s police department on Monday, hoping to get more information about the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

McDonald was shot 16 times in October 2014 by a Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, after officers who responded to reports that the black teen was breaking into cars chased him through a southwest side neighborhood.

Van Dyke reported that McDonald threatened him with a knife, but the real events were exposed after independent journalist Brandon Smith sued the city to release a police dash-cam video of the incident.

The video, which the public saw just before Thanksgiving last year, showed McDonald walking away from officers when he was shot, confirming what witnesses said they saw on that day.

The most recent complaint once again accuses the police department of violating the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, by refusing to produce public records involving McDonald’s death.

The Chicago Tribune Company LLC sued the Chicago Police Department on Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, saying one of its reporters requested “emails relating to the shooting death of Laquan McDonald written or received by several CPD employees between Oct. 20, 2014 and April 30, 2015.”

The reporter asked for communications containing specific keywords – like “video,” “dashcam,” “McDonald” and ‘Van Dyke” – in the December 2015 records request.

According to the complaint, “CPD delayed processing the requests for months, interposing groundless claims of ‘burdensomeness’ and improperly narrowing its search for responsive records.”

The request was narrowed down and the department said it had the final 375 emails that were asked for, but it never turned them over, the Tribune claims.

Following a long pattern of not complying with FOIA requests, the complaint states, “CPD simply declined to produce public records, even after it located and redacted a substantial set of them.”

After the release of the dash-cam video, which McDonald’s family had agreed not to share as part of a $5 million settlement with Chicago in April 2015, the city erupted in protests.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, and there were calls for State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down for only charging Van Dyke once the city was ordered by a court to release the video.

Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and is now awaiting a trial.

The Tribune seeks disclosure of the requested records, and is represented in its FOIA complaint by Natalie Spears of Dentons US LLP in Chicago.

Chicago’s legal department did not respond Tuesday to Courthouse News’ request for comment on the lawsuit.

In January of this year, conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch also sued Chicago for not responding to its request for communications regarding the McDonald dash-cam video.

%d bloggers like this: