The city of Chicago did an about-face Wednesday, asking a federal judge to lift a protective order to allow the public release of video that shows a white police officer fatally shooting a black suspect in a car theft in 2013.
City attorneys said in a filing in U.S. District Court that it was dropping its opposition in light of Mayor Rahm Emanuel wanting a recently created special task force to review policies regarding the release of such videos.
"We recognize the (city's video release) policy needs to be updated, and while we await guidance from the Task Force on Police Accountability, we are working to be as transparent as possible," said Steve Patton, Emanuel's top legal adviser who heads the city's law department.
Attorney Andy Hale, who represents the officers in the case, released the following statement:
"After disobeying the officer's order to exit the vehicle, the suspect reached to the floor and ran out of the vehicle with a dark object in his hand. As he was fleeing, the suspect turned toward the officers, with the dark object in his right hand, causing one officer to open fire. A medical expert has reported that a bullet entered the suspect's right forearm and then entered the lower right side of the abdomen. A nationally recognized police use of force expert has also produced a report concluding that this shooting was justified."
City attorneys had previously fought to keep video under seal until legal proceedings end in the case of Cedrick Chatman, the 17-year-old who was a suspect in a car theft when an officer killed him on Jan. 7, 2013.
U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman was scheduled to rule Thursday morning on whether to release the footage.
This all follows the Nov. 24 release of video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. That led to protests and a federal civil rights investigation of Chicago's police department. The city fought the release of the McDonald video for more than a year, drawing sharp criticism and calls for the city to change how it deals with such cases.
According to court documents, a video from a high school's security camera recorded police chasing Chatman in the South Shore neighborhood and then one officer fatally shooting him. The primary dispute is over whether Chatman had something in his hand and turned toward police before he was shot; the city says he did, Chatman family lawyers say he didn't.
Investigators later said the object in Chatman's turned out to be a small box.
Both sides agree the camera that caught the incident was at a distance and the footage is of low quality.
There are videos from other security cameras, but attorneys say none capture the chase and the shooting as the main video in question.