Videos of Chicago Police Shootings Sought

     CHICAGO (CN ) – The Chicago Police Department doesn’t want surveillance videos of police shootings to see the light of day, two lawsuits filed in Cook County claim.
     In the first of the lawsuits, filed by attorney Michael Oppenheimer on August 3, the lawyer claims the department ignored his Freedom of Information Act request for the video of the Oct. 12, 2014 shooting of Ronald Johnson III, an unarmed black man, by a police officer.
     The second lawsuit, filed August 5, by independent journalist Brandon Smith, complains of the denial of his request for a video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year old shot the same month as Johnson.
     Oppenheimer, who is representing the estate of Johnson in a federal lawsuit, says while it is unusual for a lawyer to file a FOIA request, his firm believes “it’s important for people to see” the video.
     The attorney says he has seen the video but cannot comment on it due to a protective order issued by the judge for the trial.
     Smith’s complaint says the CPD “always intended to deny the request for video but took repeated extensions to delay so it could better manage negative press attention and avoid embarrassment.”
     Smith says he made his request because he wanted to “publicize that they’re denying people this video” and “didn’t believe it should be kept secret.”
     He adds that 14 other requests were made to see it. “Lot’s of people wanted this video … no one got it.”
     Ronald Johnson was shot by police who responded to reports of gunfire in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood. Police said he had a gun, while witnesses said he was unarmed.
     Laquan McDonald died after being shot 16 times by one of the officers trailing him after he allegedly tried to break into cars with a knife.
     The FBI is investigating the incident, and the district manager of a Burger King near the site of the shooing says 86 minutes of the restaurant’s security tapes surrounding the shooting were mysteriously erased after several police officers asked to view them.
     “It’s really fishy,” says Smith.
     The city settled a lawsuit filed by McDonald’s family for $5 million.
     According to the watchdog Better Government Association, Chicago police shot 240 people over a five year period from 2010 to 2014, killing 70.
     As a result, the organization says, $26.7 million was paid out to families of those victims. (BGA link)
     Oppenheimer says that although “things are supposed to be transparent” the “city is very good at keeping things quiet.”
     Oppenheimer’s complaint says the protective order does not bar the video being produced by a FOIA request, and Smith says the CPD has to prove producing the other would harm the investigation they said it was involved in.
     The Chicago Police Department did not respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.
     Both plaintiffs are represented by Matthew Topic Loevy & Loevy in Chicago.

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