McCarthy Admits Initial Press Release on Laquan McDonald Shooting Was Wrong: ‘That’s My Fault’

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy admitted Tuesday on NBC Chicago that the initial press release sent out after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by an officer last year was wrong.

“The initial press release was mistaken, no two ways about it,” he said. “I guess that’s my fault.”

Police initially said an officer shot McDonald in the chest when the teen refused to drop a knife and continued to walk toward officers. Authorities also said the boy lunged at officers with the knife.

But dash-cam video of the shooting shows an officer shooting the teen several times as he appeared to walk away from police.

McCarthy added that he didn’t see dash-cam video of the shooting until the day after the press release went out.

“At that point I was too involved in trying to learn the circumstances of this event and what I needed to do internally and externally and communication is a part of that, no two ways about it, but in this particular case my greatest concern was that information came from elsewhere that he had lunged at the officers, which we knew not be the case and that was what I was trying to fix behind the scenes with the FOP quite frankly,” he said.

Prosecutors said in court last week that the shooting happened within 15 seconds, but for 13 of those seconds McDonald was on the ground. They added the video "clearly does not show McDonald advancing toward [Van Dyke]."

An autopsy confirmed McDonald was shot a total of 16 times and showed he had PCP in his system. He suffered wounds to the scalp, neck, left chest, right chest, left elbow, left forearm, right upper arm, right upper arm, right hand, right upper leg, left upper back and right lower back, according to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting last week. Release of the dash-cam footage has prompted a series of protests throughout Chicago and sparked increasing calls for McCarthy’s resignation.

Most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board said McCarthy “should resign” and “If he does not, Mayor Rahm Emanuel should fire him.”

McCarthy said that the situation is out of his hands, and the only way he could legally react to the McDonald shooting was to strip Van Dyke of his authority.

“I didn’t have the authority to do what people thought I should do in this case, by law,” he said.

He added that once a federal investigation began the issue was out of his hands.

“This is a federal investigation that’s going on and you’re asking me what I can do about it and the answer is nothing and that’s the problem,” he said.  

McCarthy was fired soon after the interview Tuesday morning. 

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