The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled that the Chicago Police Department is improperly withholding public documents involving how police shot and killed 16-year-old Warren Robinson in July 2014. The unanimous decision said documents sought by NBC 5 News "concern the investigation of whether that shooting was justified.”
The decision affirms a Circuit Court ruling in which Judge Neil Cohen called the city’s denial of records "loco" and "crazy."
Robinson was shot 16 times after police said he pointed a gun at them while lying under a car. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s reported stated Robinson was shot five times in the chest and arms and 11 times in the back.
NBC 5 originally filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents detailing what happened the night of July 5, 2014, in the 8700 block of South Sangamon.
City attorneys denied the request, citing the Illinois Juvenile Court Act. The Law Department balked at releasing records, stating, "The State prohibits the City from releasing law enforcement records" for those under 18, who are "investigated, arrested or taken into custody."
NBC 5 News appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which in a 12-page non-binding opinion in 2017, ruled the city "improperly refused to disclose” records involving the actions of Chicago police officers that day.
Despite the ruling by the Public Access Counselor the city still refused to release any documents.
NBC 5 News then filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court in which Matt Topic, an attorney at Loevy & Loevy, argued the city should be compelled to hand over the police reports. Ruling in NBC 5’s favor, Judge Cohen wrote the city’s refusal means an officer’s actions won’t "be subject to scrutiny when he shoots a juvenile, and that’s the tail wagging the dog."
The Appellate Court decision stated the city’s interpretation of the Juvenile Court Act is incorrect and that the records sought by NBC 5 deal with the actions of Chicago police and not the actions of a juvenile. The Justices wrote "…CPD’s interpretation….would produce absurd results. In the case at bar, the minor was the victim of a fatal shooting by the police, and the records sought by WMAQ concern the investigation of whether that shooting was justified."
The city's law department spokesman issued the following response in a statement: "As we have said throughout this process, the City of Chicago has always been willing to release these records consistent with state law. We withheld them only while we awaited clarity from the courts in reconciling the Juvenile Court Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Until then, we chose to err on the side of caution and protect the rights and privacy of a minor. Now that the courts have provided direction in this case, we will release the records in this case in the near future."