Emails show lawyers of Chicago mayor tried to block video of Laquan McDonald shooting

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The Daily Beast reports that, contrary to the claims of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his administration tried to prevent the release of video footage showing the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of police.

McDonald was shot at least 16 times by Chicago cops on Oct. 20, 2014 following reports that the 17-year-old teen was carrying a knife and breaking into vehicles. Video of the shooting recorded by the dashboard camera of a police cruiser was released last November on the same day Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with McDonald's murder.


Emails released by the city relating to the McDonald shooting show that, as early as last April, the city was trying to put language into its $5 million settlement with the family that would prevent the video of the shooting from being released. No lawsuit against the city had been filed at the time of the negotiations.

In an April 6 message from McDonald family counsel Michael Robbins to city lawyer Thomas Platt, Robbins seems taken aback by the confidentiality agreement's inclusion in the settlement.

We do not agree however, and would not acknowledge that the disclosure of the video would have an adverse impact on the criminal investigation or any potential charges that may be brought. The provision as drafted, that we maintain the confidentiality of the materials–principally the dash cam-video–until the criminal charges are concluded, which could be in effect for years; is entirely unreasonable. Nor was any such broad sweeping confidentiality provision discussed during our meetings.


This was sent the day before a scheduled run-off election between Emanuel and his Democratic challenger Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia. Two days later, the family reversed course and accepted the confidentiality agreement, according to The Daily Beast, and a week later it was approved by the City Council.

In the aftermath of the Van Dyke indictment, Emanuel said he did not see the video prior to its public release. But emails between his own attorneys and those of the McDonald family show them discussing it several times, with the McDonald lawyers attaching screenshots to an email at one point.

Chicago officials also have repeatedly claimed they always intended to release the video after the criminal investigation concluded, but the emails show lawyers seeking to keep the video confidential until the conclusion of all criminal charges, which could take years.

Van Dyke pled not guilty to the charges relating to McDonald's death in a Dec. 29 indictment. His trial is pending.