Senior members of Rahm Emanuel's administration received and sent emails about the video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald long before the mayor said he was fully briefed, emails obtained by NBC5 News show.
The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and show that the mayor’s chief of staff, deputy chief of staff and top press aides were included in email chains.
On Jan. 20, 2015, in the heat of his re-election campaign, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to hire 350 new police officers and begin a pilot plan for police to use body cameras. “And too many of our kids are growing up with a sense where violence becomes a norm,” Emanuel said in what was billed as a major speech.
That same afternoon, at 4:30, Thomas Platt, a deputy corporation counsel sent his boss Steve Patton an email with the subject line reading: Fatal Shooting on video, 4000 South Pulaski.
The body of Platt’s message was blacked out by the city.
At 7:28pm, Patton sent the mayor’s Chief of Staff Lisa Schrader and Deputy Chief of Staff Janey Rountree an email marked: Attorney Client Privileged and Confidential.
FYI, he wrote. Two hours later Schrader replied: Thanks.
Still that wasn’t the first email involving the mayor’s chief of staff and the possibility of police dash camera video showing LaQuan McDonald being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke.
On December 9, 2014 Schrader distributed a Crain’s Chicago Business article in which questions were raised about video of the McDonald shooting.
The headline on the article read: “If Chicago police have video of teen shooting, let’s see it: advocates.”
Schrader distributed the article to some of the mayor’s other senior advisors, including spokeswoman Kelley Quinn, senior aide David Spiefogel, and Matt Hynes, a former top political strategist for the mayor who had since left City Hall.
The mayor's office issued the following statement in response to the report: "As we have said, the Mayor's office staff was aware of the McDonald case -- and the federal and state criminal investigations that had been launched -- and was following a policy that had been in place for years by not releasing video evidence during a criminal investigation. The Mayor has been clear that this longstanding policy needs to be revised, and has asked that the task force review this policy and make recommendations for a new path forward."
To date, the mayor’s answers to questions about what he knew of the dash cam video and when have been imprecise.
Last week on Chicago Tonight Emanuel was asked who first told him about the LaQuan McDonald video?
“I don’t know who briefed me first about the video,” he said, adding, “The first person that kind of gave me the description of it was Corporation Counsel Steve Patton."
Asked the next day about when he first learned of the McDonald case and who informed him, the mayor responded, “Probably read it in the paper. Uhm and some of the staff, uhm could have informed me.”
The mayor went on to say he only learned in detail about the video once a $5-million settlement agreement was reached with the McDonald family.
“And I think that’s around, toward the end of March, when he (Corporation Counsel Steve Patton) told me the details,” Emanuel said.
But the emails clearly show Emanuel’s senior staff was involved in questions raised about the LaQuan McDonald video months before the mayor said he was give specifics.