AP News Guide: Feds begin work on Chicago police probe

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP News Guide: As federal investigators begin work, a look at probe into Chicago police.

CHICAGO — Janet Lindsey Ferguson has carried a poster bearing a photograph of her teenage son, Rickey Childs, ever since he was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2012. CHICAGO (AP) — A federal civil rights investigation looking at one of the nation’s largest police departments began in earnest Wednesday, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will talk with federal investigators Thursday.According to a copy of the indictment posted Wednesday on the Chicago Tribune’s website, Officer Jason Van Dyke was indicted Tuesday on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct. Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante told a City Council hearing Tuesday about a planned sit-down between investigators and police brass Wednesday, adding, “We have not been through anything like this before.” Meanwhile Wednesday night, the Chicago Tribune reported that the officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of a black teenager that set off the investigation was indicted by a Cook County grand jury.

Now, after the release of the video of a Chicago officer firing 16 bullets into the body of another black teen, Laquan McDonald, she has hope that McDonald’s death — and the murder charge against the white officer, the first in decades to be charged with a crime for an on-duty shooting — will prompt someone to take another look at her son’s case. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez acknowledged she made the announcement earlier than planned out of concern for “public safety.” Court records show Alvarez’s office obtained the seven-count indictment from a grand jury Tuesday. McDonald, 17, knowing it “created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm.” Officer Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, did not return a phone call Wednesday night from The Associated Press. The video — released 13 months after the shooting — shows McDonald running down the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street when Van Dyke opens fire, hitting the teen 16 times.

Van Dyke, who was freed on $1.5 million bail Nov. 30 after spending six nights in Cook County Jail, is scheduled to return Friday to the Leighton Criminal Court Building. They’re pressuring the city’s beleaguered Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, to reopen inquiries into their family members’ deaths, and see the federal Department of Justice’s investigation of the Police Department as a chance — maybe the last one they will get — to be heard. The Justice Department said Wednesday it is having “productive” talks on police reforms in Ferguson, Missouri, where a probe was opened after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014.

Prosecutors said Van Dyke fired 16 shots in 14 to 15 seconds, and for all but one of two of those seconds, McDonald was already lying wounded on the pavement on Oct. 20, 2014. While the money is going toward Calvin’s small child, she remains dissatisfied that none of the officers paid with their jobs for what they did. “I have been trying to figure out what to do, who can I talk to and how I can get my story heard but I was just tired,” she said. “Then when the Laquan McDonald case came up, it gave me the push I needed.” Since the McDonald video and others, including one of a police officer fatally shooting a man in the back, have been released, authorities are getting calls to investigate cases that have been closed for years or barely noted by anyone but the families of those who died. There’s no rush: Investigations of far smaller departments have taken a year to finish and the one into Chicago’s 12,000-officer force could take longer. IPRA has already opened one investigation after a video showed a man being dragged by police from a jail cell and the agency’s new head has asked the city’s inspector general to again look at the McDonald case.

The head of the Chicago police union, Dean Angelo, told WTTW-TV he already met with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who leads the investigation. Attorney’s Office with a written demand for investigations into several shootings by police and alleged police torture cases — handing over pretty much the same document they said the same office ignored last year. She already has some satisfaction: Earlier this year, Chicago Public Radio reported that tests showed the gun police said Cross fired at them was inoperable, that IPRA had determined the gun had not been fired and that there was no gun residue on Cross’ hands. “Those officers are working now and they shouldn’t be,” she said. A key component is also community outreach — talking with families of Chicago residents shot by officers, likely setting up a hotline and email for tips, and holding town hall meetings to get direct feedback from the public.

As McDonald walked away from him, Van Dyke took at least one step forward and fired 16 rounds at McDonald in about 14 seconds and was reloading when another officer told him to hold his fire, prosecutors said. At the time of the shooting, a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, said McDonald had lunged at Van Dyke. President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff said Wednesday that the federal investigation, to which he was initially cool, will bring a “fresh set of eyes” on persistent allegations of police misconduct.

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