NBC Lawsuit Asks Police to Release Public Records

Shooting of Warren Robinson July 5, 2014

Attorneys representing NBC 5 News have filed a lawsuit asking the Circuit Court of Cook County to compel the Chicago Police Department to release public records from the police-involved shooting of 16-year-old Warren Robinson.

The lawsuit is an effort to obtain official records of what happened when Robinson died after being shot 16 times on July 5, 2014.

Chicago police cornered Robinson in the 8700 block of South Sangamon after responding to a call of a man with a gun, dressed in a hoodie.

Robinson, according to police accounts, hid under a car and pointed his gun at officers, who opened fire.

At the time a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police, Pat Camden, told reporters, “When police tell you to drop your gun, drop your gun and nothing is going to happen. You put an officer in fear of his life, he’s going to defend himself.”

An autopsy by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office stated Robinson was struck five times in the chest and arms and eleven times in the back.

NBC 5 Investigates filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all police reports and case incident reports of the shooting but the request was denied. The city said the Illinois Juvenile Court Act prohibited the release because Robinson, at 16, was underage.

The NBC lawsuit notes former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy nonetheless released information about Robinson at a press conference, and the Independent Police Review Authority released Robinson’s name.

Earlier this year the Illinois Attorney General’s office, in a 12-page non-binding ruling, stated the Chicago Police Department violated the Freedom of Information Act and improperly denied some public records sought by NBC 5 Investigates. Following the Attorney General’s ruling, the city still refused to release the records, again invoking the Illinois Juvenile Court Act.

In an April interview, state Senator Kwame Raoul, who authored part of that Act, said denying police records was never the goal.

“The police department’s interpretation is not,” Raoul said, “what the legislation was designed for, nor was it what the legislation means in any way.”

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Matt Topic of Lovey and Lovey, cites the Police Accountability Task Force, formed after the shooting of LaQuan McDonald, which states investigations and discipline involving police misconduct are “plagued by serious structural and procedural flaws that make real accountability nearly impossible.”

The city declined an interview request but said in a written statement, “By law, the City is permitted to release such records only upon court order. The City has no objections to releasing these records, and is only withholding them as required by state law until a court grants their release.”

The lawsuit asks for a hearing at the earliest practicable date and that the court order the city to produce the police reports.

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