City Emails Refer to Complications In Police Version of How Teen Was Shot

An autopsy report on the slain teen complicates the Chicago Police Department’s story

Emails released by the city's Law Department, following a Freedom of Information Act request, refer to complications in the Chicago Police Department’s story of how 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald was shot and killed.

At 4:27 on the morning of Feb. 11 and again at 5:28 a.m., Ralph Price, an attorney for the Chicago Police Department, emailed Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton using the description in the link about the McDonald shooting posted on the website Slate: “A recently obtained autopsy report on the dead teen complicates the Chicago Police Department’s story.”

McDonald was shot 16 times on the night of October 20, 2014 after being stopped by Chicago police who responded to a call of a man with a knife.

According to attorneys for the estate of McDonald, a single officer fired the 16 shots, nine of which struck him in the back.

The attorneys say an unreleased video from a camera in a police vehicle show McDonald was on the ground and in a fetal position when some of the shots were fired.

On the scene the night of the shooting a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police said McDonald lunged at officers and the shots were fired in self-defense.

On Feb. 10, at 8:07 p.m. the website Slate posted a story titled “Sixteen Shots” by independent journalist Jamie Kalven. The story detailed how a witness said McDonald was moving away from police, not lunging at them as the FOP spokesman originally said.

Kalven also first outlined details from the Medical Examiner’s autopsy, writing: “The autopsy raises questions not only about how [McDonald] died, but about how the Chicago Police Department has handled the case since.”

Minutes later at 8:23 p.m., Adam Collins, a Deputy Press Secretary in the mayor’s office, according to emails provided by the city, sent a link of the article to the Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chief of Staff and two mayoral assistants, as well as to Steve Patton, the city's Corporation Counsel.

Early the next morning on Feb. 11, Ralph Price, an attorney for the Chicago police department, sent his email forwarding a link to Kalven's story to the city’s top lawyer with what the city says was a Slate provided subject line: “A recently obtained autopsy report on the dead teen complicates the Chicago Police Department’s story.”

Price included a link to Kalven’s story. Patton replied in a return email at 6:46 a.m.: "Thanks.”

A city Law Department spokesman said the Price e-mail did not reflect the city’s viewpoint.

The emails suggest officials in both the Corporation Counsel’s office and the mayor’s office were closely monitoring what was being reported with Chicago’s mayoral election, at the time, less than two weeks away.

LaQuan McDonald was shot less than three months after Michael Brown was shot and killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, prompting national attention on the police department in the St. Louis, Missouri suburbs.

On March 6 attorney Jeff Neslund, who along with Michael Robbins represents the McDonald family, wrote to the Corporation Counsel’s office.

The letter was released as part of the FOIA request and included the following: “This case will undoubtedly bring a microscope of national attention to the shooting itself as well as the city’s pattern, practice and procedures in rubber- stamping fatal police shootings of African Americans as 'justified' …. I submit this particular shooting can be fairly characterized as a gratuitous execution and as well as a hate crime."

The following month, the city announced it was offering a $5 million settlement in the case, although no lawsuit had been filed.

On April 9 Collins, in an email sent to Patton, as well as one of his top assistants and an assistant to the mayor, wrote in the subject line: “Possible inquires: CPD/McDonald shooting” and noted the following Monday, April 13 the City Council Finance Committee would hear of the proposed settlement agreement.

Two days later without debate the full city council approved the McDonald settlement.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, as well as the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office have said they are investigating the McDonald shooting.

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