Chicago Activist Sues for Release of All Videos of Fatal Police Shooting

WARNING: This story contains graphic images that may be unsuitable for some viewers. The video was released with no sound.

A community activist who has pushed for more police transparency filed a lawsuit Wednesday to compel the release of all videos of a fatal police shooting on the city's South Side. 

William Calloway filed the suit against the Chicago Police Department in Cook County Circuit Court, arguing that the brief video released by police on Sunday did not answer crucial questions about the shooting. 

The suit alleges that the department "engages in a pattern, policy, and practice of selectively disclosing information, photos, and videos of officer involved shootings that is based in whole or in part on whether CPD has been publicly accused of or questioned about misconduct or dishonesty and whether the information supports CPD’s narrative of what occurred."

Calloway argued for the release of all audio and video, "not just the selective, incomplete, and edited recording that CPD released to justify the shooting in response to public criticism and questions."

The shooting took place at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the 2000 block of East 71st Street, according to a statement from Chicago police. Officers approached a man who was "exhibiting characteristics of an armed person," CPD said, and an "armed confrontation ensued."

Officials said an officer opened fire, fatally striking the man who authorities later identified as 37-year-old Harith Augustus, a barber from the South Shore neighborhood.

Augustus had a gun in a holster at his hip and was shot multiple times as he ran away, spun around and reached toward his waist, footage released Sunday from an officer's body-worn camera showed.

Calloway said that a police spokesman's explanation that Augustus was "exhibiting characteristics of an armed person" did not justify stopping someone in a city and state where it is legal to carry a concealed weapon.

The video released by police did not include sound so it is impossible to hear what was said by either Augustus or any of the four officers at the scene.

Chicago police spokesman Tom Ahern said the department would not release any more video and any decision to do so would have to be made by the agency that investigates such incidents, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). In a written statement, COPA said that releasing all the video now "may jeopardize the integrity of our investigation," but that the video would be released no later than 60 days from the date of the incident.

At a news conference on Sunday to announce the release of the video, Johnson said the way the technology works is that there is a "30-second buffer period" without audio before the sound is activated. It is unclear why there is no sound throughout the entire video.

Calloway was instrumental in a legal battle that ultimately led a judge in 2015 to order the release of dash cam video showing the 2014 shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald. The release of that video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the teen 16 times, sparked massive protests, cost then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy his job and prompted various federal and local investigations. Van Dyke is awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges.

Johnson said on Sunday that release of the video one day after the shooting was the quickest he had ever ordered such a disclosure. He said that he did so to avoid a repeat of the clashes between angry residents and police that took place Saturday night. Protesters threw rocks and bottles — some filled with urine — at police and officers responded by hitting some demonstrators with their batons.

After release of the shooting video, protests on Sunday evening were peaceful. But the community remains tense and more protests have been planned, while some have called for Johnson's resignation in the days after the shooting. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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