The Chicago police officer charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a black teen last year also played a role in another controversial police shooting 10 years ago, according to a civil suit filed against the city.
On Tuesday, the chairman of the city’s Hispanic Council questioned whether officers used excessive force in the case and called for justice.
Emmanuel Lopez, a 23-year-old janitor, was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police officers on Sept. 16, 2005.
Police have alleged Lopez was in the driver’s seat of a 1991 Honda Civic that attempted to escape being pulled over for speeding and hitting another vehicle at a red light. They also claim Lopez became trapped in an alley, hit another vehicle and pinned one officer underneath his car.
Investigators at the time ruled the shooting was justified, but family members have claimed the story of why Lopez was killed was a cover-up, and that 14 of the 16 bullets that struck him that night hit him in the back.
“They’re not trying to get at the truth, they’re trying to cover up the shooting and in the case of Emmanuel Lopez Jason Van Dyke was right in the middle of it,” said the family’s attorney, Terry Ekl.
Van Dyke, who arrived at the scene after the shooting and was assigned to write a “general offense case report,” was deposed in the case in 2008 and admitted he never actually interviewed any of the officers involved in the shooting. He said a detective at the scene typed up a summary of what happened, and he copied that summary.
When asked whether Van Dyke questioned where the information came from, Van Dyke said he did not.
"No, because we were doing the — I'm not the investigator on this. I'm just documenting what happened. I think it was just easier to do it that way instead of me asking, asking, asking, and him answering, answering, answering,” he said in the deposition.
Van Dyke was charged last month with murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot 16 times during an incident on Oct. 20, 2014. Police have said McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at officers before he was shot, but dashcam video from the scene appears to show McDonald walking away from officers.
On Tuesday, Ald. George Cardenas, chairman of the Chicago Latino Caucus, called for reforms and police accountability, noting that the issues with police accountability and use of force are not just in black communities, but in all communities. He highlighted Lopez’s case and questioned the investigation surrounding it.
“Emmanuel Lopez is an example of how police affect those that can’t fend for themselves,” he said.
Cardenas argued that Lopez was unarmed at the time of the shooting and said it is hard to “understand why this was not thoroughly investigated.”
“I’ve seen personally the autopsy reports. They’re pretty damning and pretty chilling to be honest with you,” he said.
The city has said the incident took place before the Independent Police Review Authority existed and was deemed “justified by all investigating bodies, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office.” The State’s Attorney’s office declined prosecution in the case.
“The City will continue to defend the civil suit brought in connection with this incident as we believe the evidence refutes the plaintiff's claims,” Bill McCaffrey with the city’s law department said in a statement. “Attempts to overstate Officer Van Dyke's role are unfortunate as he was not present during the incident nor was he assigned to investigate the incident.”
Five officers are listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed by the family. According to Ekl, the case is set to go to trial in February.
“This has to be color blind when it comes to justice,” Cardenas said. “Justice has to be applied to all.”