Police Warned of Sniper Plot In Wake of Chicago Teen's Shooting Death

Investigators still trying to determine if officer's body camera was intentionally turned off

NBC5 Investigates has learned that officers in the 11th and 15th police districts have been warned of a sniper plot against police, in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed teenager earlier this month.

Officers in the 11th and 15th districts received a safety bulletin, stating that members of three west side street gangs held a meeting last week to discuss a plot to shoot officers, employing a sniper and possibly automatic weapons. Officers have been advised to limit their exposure on the street.

An ominous new development amid already heightened tensions? One CPD official said it is not being discounted, but he noted that officer safety warnings go out frequently.

The newest warning comes amid continuing questions over the recorded actions of officers involved in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal ten days ago. The ongoing investigation is believed to center on two central issues: did officers violate established departmental procedures, and did the officer who fired the fatal shot intentionally keep his body camera switched off?

Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney hired by 18 year old Paul O’Neal’s family says he smells a rat. But even police insiders who are openly critical of the way officers conducted themselves, say they are convinced the camera issue may have involved bungling on the part of an officer who had received his camera only eight days before.

The Axon cameras involve a two-step process, where a large round button must be double-pressed to initiate recording. Shutting the cameras off involves a single press of the same button. A source close to the investigation told NBC5 that investigators believe it is possible the officer simply confused the two procedures.

That same officer was involved in a horrific head-on crash with the stolen Jaguar being driven by the fleeing O’Neal. Investigators say it is possible the camera was actually rolling, but was switched off during the impact.

Indeed, if that was the officer who fired the fatal shot, he hardly seemed to be concealing his actions. After the camera was switched on, the obviously agitated patrolman talked with numerous colleagues about the shooting.

“Man, I think I shot that (expletive) man!” he said, shortly after the recording began, telling another colleague, “pray to God that nothing happens to him!”

“Do you know how many times you fired?” a supervisor asks. “Maybe five,” the officer replies.

At another point, he laments the investigation to come.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to that (expletive) guy, but the way things are going, I’m going to be (expletive) crucified!”

Investigators have cautioned that they are still early in their investigation, with video comprising only a portion of the overall evidence. And that video is substantial, with an estimated 60-plus dashboard and body cameras recording various aspects of the incident and its aftermath.

On the videos, officers are seen cautioning the alleged shooter to be careful about what he is saying, motioning to their own cameras. At one point, a supervisor warns two other officers, “Talk about that stuff after---OK?”

At an unrelated event Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cautioned reporters that he was reserving judgment until the investigation was completed.

“There’s a loss of life,” he said. It’s a loss for Chicago, and it’s a tragedy.”

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