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Graphic Video Released Of White Chicago Police Officer Shooting Black Teenager


A white Chicago police officer is facing first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of a black teenager. Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald was killed in October last year. The teenager was armed with a knife. He was shot 16 times. His case did not get much attention until a freelance reporter successfully sued the city to force the release of a dash-cam recording of the incident. Craig Futterman is one of the lawyers who fought for the tape's release. He's also the founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at University of Chicago. Good morning, Craig, and thank you for joining us.

CRAIG FUTTERMAN: Good morning, Linda. Thank you so much for having me this morning.

WERTHEIMER: First of all, could you just remind us of the details of the case. You sued to get the video. When you got it, what did you see in the video?

FUTTERMAN: What we saw was shocking. We saw a police officer get out of the car and a 17-year-old boy who looked like he had a small knife in his hand. And the boy then is moving away from the police officer and trying to get away toward a fence. And as he moved away, the officer shoots him - shoots him, spins him around. And he falls to the ground. And then the officer repeatedly shoots him while he lays on the ground.

WERTHEIMER: How did you find out that this video existed? I mean, we're one entire year away from the event. When did you find out? How did you find out?

FUTTERMAN: Just a couple of weeks or so after the incident, I got a confidential tip from someone inside the police department who was shocked by what they saw and was worried that it was going to be buried and asked, please, would we look into it.

WERTHEIMER: So you started two weeks after the event. And it took all this time for you to actually get the video. How would you describe the police department's handling of this whole case?

FUTTERMAN: Big police departments and best practices would be to release this information and release it within 24 to 48 hours. In Chicago, you know, there's very little trust between black community and police. Holding it back and holding it back now for a year in the face of demand after demand and request after request is not honesty, and it's not transparency.

WERTHEIMER: Now, you - as I understand it, you have found evidence of what the police did when they arrived at the scene. And you were - you described it as a cover-up.

FUTTERMAN: So we also spoke with eyewitnesses who were there. And one of the women who was a witness to the shooting who had - was shocked and who repeatedly screamed, stop shooting, as the officer emptied his gun into the young boy's body, refused to leave. And she reports that she was taken to the station and placed in a locked room and intimidated and told that she didn't see what she saw. We then learned, as we interviewed people from Burger King that was located kitty-corner to where this happened - and the Burger King cameras had seven different video files. The officer went into the Burger King, and he erased all seven of those files. The irony is, though, that the Burger King surveillance video was running while the officer erased them. And so there's a videotape of the officer erasing the video.

WERTHEIMER: Craig Futterman is the founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago. Craig Futterman, thank you.

FUTTERMAN: Thank you so much again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.