Is The City of Chicago and Rahm Emanuel Corrupt? Case Analysis: Laquan McDonald

Rahm Emanuel Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave a speech apologizing for the Laquan McDonald police shooting.

“We are here today because Chicago is facing a defining moment on the issues of crime and policing, and the even larger issues of truth, justice and race,” Emanuel said to the City Council chamber. “We can either be defined by what we have failed to do — or what we choose to do.”

You can watch the full speech by Emanuel via Chicago Tribune here.

That speech led to a day-long march, a Twitter campaign #ResignRahm and #ByeAnita (Cook County State’s Attorney is Anita Alvarez), and most recently, proposed legislation to terminate Emanuel as mayor.

Emanuel has a long political history as the former congressman and chief of staff to President Barack Obama. He recently won a re-election after a run-off election this spring 2015.

What Happened: Laquan McDonald Case?

Recently, a video was released, a video of white officer, Jason Van Dyke shootinga 17 year-old black victim, Laquan McDonald from LAST YEAR, October 2014. The victim was carrying a knife during the incident. McDonald was shot 16 times by a cop who had 16 civilian complaints on his file, according to the Chicago Tribune. The autopsy showed that McDonald had PCPa drug also called Angel Dust, in his system.

How was this investigation delayed for over a year?

The case was investigated. There was a funeral for McDonald. Months later, there was a settlement. So, after a settlement, isn’t a case closed?

Not quite.

There was a video captured from the police dashcam. This video changed the entire case, a case that was originally reported by the police department as self-defense.

The McDonald family did not want the video released and the mother does not want to see the video, according to one of their lawyers, Michael Robins, via Chicago Reporter, Judge’s Decision Could Lead to Release of More Police Shooting Videos.

Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist, and key player in propelling this investigation told Chicago Tonight, “I believe that the family has a right to not have their son become a poster child for fighting against police brutality,” said Smith.

“But then there’s also this question of, do we as a society have the right or the responsibility to hold accountable the people who police our streets? That’s what this is about for me.”

As the investigation unfolded, shady practices, along with an upcoming election stifled the release date of the video.

People have alluded that this case was being covered-up to better present Rahm Emanuel in this year’s mayoral election.

After reviewing the facts of the case from multiple news sources, I am left with two questions.

The first is why did the city want to hide this case from the public eye back in October 2014? Yes, there was uproar in Ferguson and then in New York, but why?

What was the cover-up? This notion of white on black crime? On police brutality? On gun control? Who was being saved by the way the City of Chicago conducted this investigation?

The second is, if the video was released a year ago, and things were conducted in a timely manner, would Rahm Emanuel be in the hot seat now?  Would we still want to fire Emanuel or would we want the police officer to be charged?

In a lot of these cases, the police officer is released and not charged as guilty. Note that each case is different. In this case, the officer did go to jail and is serving trial.

Timeline of Events for Emanuel Police Controversy:

October 20, 2014 – Laquan McDonald shooting. The incident began at 9:47 pm near 4100 block of South Karlov Avenue, when “a Chicago Police Department dispatcher first radioed that a caller reported a man breaking into trucks and stealing radios. By 9:57 p.m., prosecutors say McDonald had been shot 16 times,” according to NBC Chicago, Timeline What Happened The Night Laquan McDonald Was Fatally Shot.

Five police cars responded to the incident. There were five dashcams. Three were inoperable.

October 21, 2014 -In the initial coverage, the reporter, Susan Carlson said, “but police say this was a clear-cut case of self-defense.” Through the police report told by the reported, McDonald was described as “swinging a knife and slashing tires right in front of them,” via NBC Chicago, Teen Shot, Killed by Police Officer on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

In an interview with Chicago Tonight, Michael Robins, one of the lawyers in the McDonald case, talks about a false statement that was given the night of the Laquan McDonald murder.  “In addition to showing what happened in this incident, [the video] puts a spotlight on the fact that there was a false narrative that was disseminated the night of the shooting. A spokesman for the Chicago police union, the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] went to the scene and issued a statement, and that was the narrative at that point–saying that Laquan had been shot in self-defense, that he was lunging at a police officer. That was not true, and that was never corrected.”

April 13/15, 2015A $5 million deal was presented to the City Council’s committee on finance, via The Daily BeastInside Rahm Emanuel’s Vote to Silence Laquan McDonald’s Family. 

“On March 13th the city of Chicago agreed to a $5-million dollar settlement, even without a lawsuit being filed. The settlement was first approved by the alderman in the Finance Committee and on April 15th before the full City Council without debate or comment,” via NBC Chicago, CDP Failed to Properly Probe Death of Teen Shot 16 Times by Cop Lawyer.

This is not the first time that the City of Chicago has paid a lot of money in a case. The New Yorker reports, in a December 1, 2015 article, Before Laquan McDonald, a Chicago Police Shooting with No Video,

“In the past ten years, the city has paid five hundred and twenty-one million dollars in alleged police-misconduct cases, according to a study by the Better Government Association, a local non-profit watchdog group.”

This article is interesting because The New Yorker interviews another family who was offered a settlement from the City of Chicago.

August 2015 – Freelance journalist, Brandon Smith, a key player in propelling this investigation, sued for the police video’s release under the Freedom of Information Act. The Chicago Police Department denied the request.

November 19, 2015 –  Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled that the video must be released by November 25, 2015  to the public because the case was being investigated on a national level, including the FBI. “Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents. In this case unfortunately, it appears an officer violated that trust at every level.”


November 24, 2015 – Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with fatally shooting McDonald.

“Van Dyke, who turned himself in to authorities Tuesday, is no longer being paid by the Police Department. Until Tuesday, he still worked for the department in a “limited duty position” as investigators probed the October 20, 2014, death,” according to CNN,Chicago protesters march as police release video of officer shooting teen.

November 24, 2015 –  The police video on Laquan McDonald shooting was released. Watch the video or read about the contents of the video via the Chicago Tribune.

Protesters march at night in response to the video.

November 30, 2015 –  Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke was released after posting $150,000 bond at 5:30 pm. Bail is set at $1.5 million, according to ABC7, Chicago Police Office Charged in Laquan McDonald Shooting Posts Bond, Leaves Jail.

November 27, 2015 – Chicago protesters march down Michigan Ave. and shut down businesses include Water Tower Place and the Nike store on Black Friday. A blogger, 

December 1, 2015 – Rahm Emanuel fires Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

December 1, 2015 – “Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general asking the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department,” via CNN, Chicago Politics: How justice was delayed for Laquan McDonald.

December 2, 2015 –   The Illinois Attorney General requested the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigate whether practices by the Chicago Police Department violate the constitution and federal laws, via NPR.

December 3, 2015 – The City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel releases a statement about the federal investigation, “First and foremost, we need answers as to what happened in the Laquan McDonald case, which is why the United States Attorney should swiftly conclude his year-long investigation and shed light on what happened that night, and the actions of everyone involved.”

December 9, 2015 – Chicago protests on Michigan Ave.

December 10, 2015  – Illinois state legislator announces a bill to counteract a 1941 law , that would allow voters to petition the Mayor through a ballot.

Reactions on Facebook:

“Open letter to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: I heard your apology for the needless shooting of Laquan McDonald. I heard your apology for the needless shooting of a black teenager which occurred last October. The problem, as President Nixon and his advisers said, was the ‘Cover-up.’ The problem was that you deliberately withheld information about the shooting from his family, and the public, fo0r at least a year so you and the Democratic Governor of Illinois could both win reelection. Mr. Emanuel, this is as craven and depraved as it gets. You didn’t withhold the information “for the public good”. you withheld it so you could save your but and that of your political boss in Springfield! And, Now you have the gall to call for “Reform”! You should be resigning along with the man who benefited from your depravity, not pretending to lead the “Reform Movement.

You should be hanging your head in shame, not holding your head high. You should be leaving town with your tail between your legs, not being driven around town like some sort of emperor or king!
I’ve approved and written this message.”

Michael Sweeney wrote on Facebook, December 9, 2015

“I am not a fan of Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago. I understand the complaints about him from the black community because it is obvious to any idiot that the video was held because he was running for reelection.
However, the protests demanding he resign is ridiculous. He is an elected official. The people of Chicago put him in office. So, a group of people that are mad should not be able to undo that election.
I felt the same way about the Kentucky clerk, Kim Davis who refused to issue marriage licenses for same sex marriages. She is an elected official. Vote her out next time but people have no right to force her to resign.”

Carolyn Strauch via Facebook, December 9, 2015.

Reactions on Twitter:



Next Steps:

Note: I have NOT watched the video. After looking into this case, I’m not ready to watch it just yet.

As a society, having an opinion isn’t important, having an educated opinion is. It’s easy to get mad when others are mad. It’s groupthink.

I invite you to read the news and facts of the case and form your own opinion. Listen and join the conversation on Twitter or join a march on the street.

In the past year alone, there have been so many stories about police force, about terror threats, about distrust between the American people and elected officials. This is an important time in America to read, to be informed, and to be apart of our country’s history and progress for peace and justice for all.

I will leave you with an Instagram post from my friend at the Chicago Tribune, Randi Shaffer.

Chicago has been kind of crazy lately. Police brutality initially swept under the rug has led to a federal investigation, protests, uncovering after uncovering of downplayed crimes, a never-ending stream of impassioned social media comments to monitor, late shifts, early shifts, on-call shifts, and informative discussions. I’ve been keeping up with the chaos from the Trib’s newsroom, and there is no place I’d rather be. Staying up-to-date with ongoings is incredibly important, and — even though I’m the furthest thing possible from a millionaire — I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. Journalism is everything to me. Current events are so, so important, and I implore everyone to focus on what’s going on in the world and get involved — no matter your political affiliation or stance. The first step to fixing society is understanding it, so please, pick up a newspaper, turn on a TV or tune in to the radio. Pay attention.

A post shared by Randi Shaffer (@randimshaffer) on

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