Chicago releases video of police shooting 17yo Cedrick Chatman (VIDEO)

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Lawyers for the city of Chicago, Illinois have dropped objections to the release of surveillance footage that shows the police shooting a black teenager in 2013. Cedrick Chatman was killed as he fled officers who stopped him for car theft.

(Warning: Graphic images)

Surveillance camera footage (5:36 mark in the video) shows Chatman bolting from the car, and one of the plainclothes officers pointing a gun and firing in his direction. When the camera pans over to the other corner, Chatman is lying motionless the ground.

US District Court Judge Robert Gettleman lifted the protective order on the recordings on Thursday after lawyers for the city said they would no longer oppose the release in the interest of transparency.

“I went to a lot of trouble to decide this issue, and then I get this motion last night saying that this is the age of enlightenment with the city and we’re going to be transparent,” said Gettleman. “I think it’s irresponsible.”

Chatman, 17, was shot on the afternoon of January 7, 2013, in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago.  According to the police report, Officers Kevin Fry and Lou Toth stopped the silver Dodge Charger that Chatman was driving because it matched the description of a car that had been reported stolen. As two officers in plainclothes approached, Chatman bolted from the car and ran down Jeffery Avenue.

Fry said at one point he saw Chatman turn around and point an object at the officers. He fired four shots, hitting Chatman twice. Attorneys for Chatman’s family said that the video contradicts Fry’s account, and that the teenager never turned around.

The object in Chatman’s hand turned out to be a black box containing an iPhone. Police believe the box was obtained in the carjacking, according to Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which had ruled the shooting justified.

“The video supports Officer Fry’s observation that (Chatman) was pointing a firearm at Officer Toth,” the final IPRA report said, concluding that the “use of deadly force was in compliance with Chicago Police Department policy."

However, that finding only came after the firing of a senior IPRA investigator, who originally said the shooting had not been justified. Lorenzo Davis said his last performance review accused him of “a complete lack of objectivity combined with a clear bias against the police” and said he was the only supervisor who refused to make “requested changes as directed by management in order to reflect the correct finding” in cases of officer-involved shootings.

Davis, who reviewed the surveillance videos during the course of his investigation, told the Chicago Tribune in November that he never saw Chatman turn toward the officers.

“Cedrick was just running as the shots were fired,” Davis said. “You’re taught that deadly force is a last resort and that you should do everything in your power to apprehend the person before you use deadly force. I did not see where deadly force was called for at that time.”

The shooting was captured on a police surveillance camera, a camera outside a nearby convenience store, and a camera near the South Shore High School. Lawyers for both the city and the Chatman family agreed that the footage was low quality and showed the events from a distance. City attorneys nonetheless argued that the release of the recordings could inflame the public and interfere with the proceedings in the family’s lawsuit.

Police said that Chatman and two others, Akeem Clarke and Martel Odum, robbed a man who was selling a cell phone. Chatman drove off in the victim’s car, while Clarke and Odum kept the cash from the robbery. They were each sentenced to 10 years in prison last September for robbery and unlawful vehicular invasion, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The police initially charged Clark and Odum with Chatman’s death as well, but dropped the charges later.

An attorney for Chatman’s family said the release of the video would show a systemic problem in the city, coming in the wake of revelations about other cases involving police shootings of African-Americans.  

“This is a bomb that’s about to drop in the city of Chicago, where everyone suddenly realizes the system is broken,” Brian Coffman told DNA Info.

Chicago has been in turmoil since last November, when a Chicago PD officer was indicted for first-degree murder in the fatal October 2014 shooting of a black teenager. Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The initial cover-up of the McDonald shooting incensed protesters, who shut down the city’s main street on several occasions in subsequent months. Among their demands is the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff.

Emanuel has refused to resign so far, but has fired both the police superintendent and the head of the police investigative agency. In December, the US Department of Justice announced a civil rights investigation into the Chicago PD.