A dashcam video of another 2014 fatal shooting of a black man by a Chicago police officer became public Monday, with Cook County’s top prosecutor explaining in unusual detail her reasons for not charging the officer. Here are the key parts of the case:
Anita Alvarez, the county state’s attorney, cited “the totality of the evidence” when announcing she would not charge Officer George Hernandez in the death of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III, who Hernandez shot in the back as he fled from officers.
The shooting occurred just eight days before Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black, 16 times. Alvarez charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder last month, hours before the release of dashcam video of McDonald’s death, which led to days of protests and the ouster of the city’s police chief.
On Monday, Alvarez’s news conference came about two hours after the U.S. Justice Department announced it would investigate the Chicago Police Department for patterns of racial disparity in the use of force in the aftermath of McDonald’s shooting.
Johnson’s family and its attorney rejected Alvarez’s decision, calling it a “joke” and dismissing authorities’ assertions that Johnson was armed. They have sued the city over the death.
Alvarez said officers encountered Johnson after responding to reports of shots fired in a city neighborhood. She played 911 calls and radio traffic among officers as a way of explaining what Hernandez knew about the scene when he arrived: Shots had been fired and men with guns could be seen running into a building.
Alvarez said Hernandez would have been able to see a man struggle with a plainclothes officer before breaking away and fleeing on foot and could hear officers shouting for the man – Johnson – to stop and drop his weapon. He was running in the direction of other officers. Hernandez fired five times, Alvarez said, hitting Johnson twice.
Digital images of Johnson’s hand show he was holding something, though it is unclear what, Alvarez said. She also added that DNA recovered from a gun found next to Johnson’s body matched Johnson’s DNA, and a matching bullet was found in a car where Johnson was sitting earlier that night.
It’s rare for Alvarez to go to such lengths to explain why charges were not warranted, but she has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks for waiting more than a year to charge Van Dyke.
Before showing the dashcam video in the Johnson case, she and Assistant State’s Attorney Lynn McCarthy showed a long PowerPoint presentation that included radio communications and maps of the part of the city where the shooting happened. There were photographs of the gun she said was recovered near Johnson’s body in a grassy area of a park, and digitally magnified images of Johnson’s hand while he was running to show he was holding an object.
She also, unusually, showed a video of an unrelated shooting incident to illustrate her point that an officer could be in fear for his life from a man running away; it showed an assailant shooting an officer over his shoulder.
The attorney representing Johnson’s family countered Alvarez’s video presentation with one of his own later Monday – including parts of video and audio of a deposition that he took from Hernandez a month ago.
Attorney Michael Oppenheimer, who represents Johnson’s mother, Dorothy Holmes, dismissed Alvarez’s presentation as an “infomercial,” said a witness was coerced into false testimony and said the investigation Alvarez relied on was incomplete and didn’t include comments from key witnesses – including Hernandez himself.
The audio Oppenheimer presented of what he said was Hernandez’s deposition had the officer saying that he wasn’t concerned about charges being filed against him. Oppenheimer also suggested that police could have planted the gun found next to Johnson’s body.
Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly said in an emailed statement Monday evening that the Cook County state’s attorney’s office reviewed “all statements” made by Hernandez, including in his deposition. She said the witness Oppenheimer claimed was coerced gave a videotaped statement to the office and a taped audio statement under oath to the Independent Police Review Authority.
Daly said Oppenheimer is suing the city for monetary damages and “that must be considered in the context of these allegations.”
Organizers said late Monday that roughly 50 to 100 protesters were marching and rallying on the city’s South Side. Some chanted for Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step down.
Key moments in case of teen fatally shot by Chicago officer
CHICAGO (AP) – The U.S. Justice Department said Monday that it will launch a wide-ranging investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department.
The announcement comes amid protests over a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times and criticism of how the department and other officials handled the teen’s killing.
Here’s a look at key moments in the case.
OCT. 20: Officer Jason Van Dyke responds to a call about a teenager breaking into cars and stealing radios. He shoots 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whom authorities say is armed with a knife, 16 times, killing him.
FEB. 27: Lawyers for McDonald’s family approach City Hall about a possible settlement without filing a lawsuit, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This was three days after the mayor failed to win a majority of votes in his re-election bid, forcing him into the city’s first mayoral runoff.
APRIL 7: Emanuel defeats Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to win a second term. The mayor made a special appeal to black voters during his campaign.
APRIL 8: Attorneys for the city and the McDonald family agree to settle for $5 million after previously meeting twice.
APRIL 15: The Chicago City Council votes to approve the $5 million settlement.
MAY 26: A freelance journalist files a Freedom of Information Act request for squad-car video of the shooting. After the city denies the request, citing an ongoing investigation, he files a lawsuit.
NOV. 19: A Cook County judge orders Chicago officials to release the video on or before Nov. 25.
NOV. 24: Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announces she is charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder. Hours later, Chicago police release the video, sparking several days of protests.
NOV. 29: The University of Chicago announces it is canceling all classes and activities on Nov. 30 because of a threat mentioning the quad and Monday morning.
NOV. 30: Chicago resident Jabari R. Dean is charged in a federal complaint with transmitting a threat in interstate commerce. Prosecutors say the 21-year-old black man threatened on a social media website to kill 16 white male students or staff at the University of Chicago, and was motivated by McDonald’s death.
DEC. 1: Emanuel fires Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and names a five-member task force to make recommendations on improving police accountability. Chief of Detectives John Escalante is named interim chief.
DEC. 4: The city releases hundreds of pages of internal police documents, including reports from officers on the scene who stated that McDonald aggressively approached Van Dyke, in contrast to what can be seen on the dashcam video.
DEC. 7: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces an investigation into patterns of racial disparity in the use of force at the Chicago Police Department, as well as how it disciplines officers and handles misconduct accusations. Alvarez also held an hourlong news conference, in which she played dashcam video of the fatal 2014 shooting of 25-year-old Ronald Johnson III by Chicago officer George Hernandez and detailed why she will not charge Hernandez in the death.