Chicago Police Video Tied To Shooting Of Unarmed Black Man Raises Questions

Aug 6, 2016
Originally published on August 6, 2016 9:05 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

An independent agency that investigates police conduct has released a body and dash cam video of the shooting of Paul O'Neal an 18-year-old unarmed black teenager. He was shot to death by Chicago police last week as he ran from a stolen automobile in the city's South Shore neighborhood. The head of that agency called the video, quote, "shocking and disturbing."

The incident comes as more questions are being raised about policing and as Chicago's homicide rate has continued to rise. I'm joined now by Carol Marin, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and political editor of WMAQ-TV and "Chicago Tonight." Carol, thanks for being back with us.

CAROL MARIN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Why was this video released more quickly than they have usually been?

MARIN: I think it is in reaction, strong reaction, to the question of police accountability. And the agency that released it now has a new director and a new mission of greater accountability. And so Sharon Fairley did what her predecessors did not. She responded almost immediately.

SIMON: Any concern you've heard from county prosecutors, for example, that releasing the video could jeopardize any eventual prosecution of police officers, if that's what it comes to?

MARIN: There is always - there is always that concern. But part of the problem here in Chicago right now is that there is no full faith and credit in the police department by communities that are beset by shootings, both from individuals, gang people, but also situations where police and black youth end up in the exchange of gunfire.

SIMON: Yeah. You've seen the video?

MARIN: I've seen the video. There are nine videos actually.

SIMON: Yeah. The O'Neal family says that it shows cold-blooded murder. There is certainly rough language. I saw about nine minutes of one video. I think a lot of civilians might - it's a confusing thing to see. It's a - it's a crime scene after all, and it begins with the police car being sideswiped by a car stolen by the young man. At least one officer thought he'd been shot at.

MARIN: Right. And it is - it is, among other things - first of all, you do not see the shooting of the 18-year-old because the officer who did the shooting, the fatal shooting, which was a gunshot to the back, was not his - his personal camera, body camera, was not turned on for whatever reason. But you see the vantage point of nine cameras, some worn by police officers, some on the dash boards of the car. And what you see is the kind of adrenaline and mayhem of police officers trying to corner a suspect.

And so when you finally do see Paul O'Neal, he is on the ground, face down. He's being handcuffed. Blood is coming out of his back. An officer has a foot on one of his legs as if to restrain him. And there's confusion because police are saying to each other, did you shoot? Were you shot at? And so there is a kind of mayhem quality.

SIMON: In the time we have left, police and others have suggested that some of this, once again, an increase in homicide is because many gang leaders have been jailed or killed. How does that follow?

MARIN: Part of it is that public housing was taken down in Chicago. There's been a kind of dispersing of gang followers. The leadership seems to be missing. So even in gangs, there is organization, and there isn't here, and it contributes to some of the chaos we're seeing in the street.

SIMON: Carol Marin in Chicago, thanks so much for being with us.

MARIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.