Family Fights Judge's Ruling to Keep Video Showing Teen's Fatal Shooting by Police Sealed

The unarmed teen was fatally shot by police in January 2013

On the same day a Cook County judge ordered dashcam video showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by a Chicago police officer be released, a federal magistrate judge granted the city of Chicago’s request that surveillance video showing the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman remain sealed.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat-Brown last month ordered surveillance footage of Chatman's shooting death remain subject to a protective order, stating the video was “inflammatory” and could “taint the jury pool."

An attorney for Chatman’s mother has since requested a federal court set aside the magistrate’s order and vacate the protective order in her son’s case, allowing for public dissemination of the security camera footage.

On Jan. 7, 2013, Chatman was reportedly with two other individuals during a cell phone deal that turned violent. According to court records, Chatman stole a Dodge Charger and was eventually boxed in by police near the intersection of East 75th Street and South Jeffrey.

When Chatman emerged from the vehicle, one of the officers reported seeing him reach for an object before running away. The officers’ deposition revealed Chatman turned his body while running. Fearing for his life, one of the officers fired his weapon and shot Chatman.

Chatman was not carrying a weapon, however, and investigators later found an iPhone 5 case near his body.

Linda Chatman said her son was not a bad child and he did not deserve what happened. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Chicago and the two police officers involved in the shooting.

"I just want to see justice for my son," Chatman said.

Cameras mounted on a traffic signal, at South Shore High School, and at a nearby apartment building recorded different angles of the incident. However, the city obtained a protective order withholding the release of the video until the conclusion of the proceedings. The city said in court papers that releasing the video would make a fair trial impossible.

Brian Coffman, who is representing Linda Chatman in her lawsuit, argued police should have let Chatman run away.

"The video shows Mr. Chatman running from the police," Coffman said. "Not doing anything, not carrying, not carrying a gun, not taking any type of movements towards officers to put them in the fear of their life."

Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) has found the shooting to be justified, but former IPRA supervisor Lorenzo Davis, who investigated the case, said Officer Kevin Fry had no reason to believe his life was in danger before he fired his weapon.

"He should not have used deadly force to stop Mr. Chatman," Davis said. "He should have exhausted all means available to catch Mr. Chatman."

Davis claims he was fired by IPRA after he refused to change his findings in the case and has since filed a wrongful termination lawsuit. The IPRA had no comment. 

“The City of Chicago is working to find the right balance when releasing videos of police incidents," the city said in a statement. "In this case, a Federal Magistrate Judge placed a protective order on the video since a civil trial is pending and the judge is maintaining that confidentiality to not taint a jury pool and ensure a fair trial for all parties.” In response to the wrongful death lawsuit, the city had earlier denied there was any cover up.

The two men allegedly with Chatman during the alleged cell phone deal-gone bad, Martel Odum and Akeem Clarke, were charged with his murder, but those charges were later dropped. They pleaded guilty to robbery and unlawful vehicular invasion.

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