In a video released on Sunday by Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, it appears that Harith “Snoop” Augustus removes a card from his wallet before he is grabbed from behind by an officer and quickly shot to death. Observers say that the card looks like the ones Illinois issues its licensed gun owners. Augustus was killed on Saturday evening, resulting in large protests that ended in multiple violent confrontations between protesters and police.
The video, a short, soundless snippet from a body camera worn by one officer, was released as an attempt to calm the outraged public. That’s a pretty unusual step for a police department known to do anything it can to avoid releasing damning footage. It’s clear that Johnson believes this footage is exonerating.
But what the video shows is unlikely to quell protests. In the short clip, we see Augustus speaking to a police officer and taking a card out of his wallet. Both of his hands are on his wallet, at chest level. Then, for reasons that are unclear, another officer comes up behind him and grabs his arm. Augustus twists away from the three officers now trying to physically restrain him, and into the street, where he appears to touch his hand to the gun on his hip. Then they shoot him.
Why would these officers grab a man who was calmly speaking to another police officer, especially if they suspected he was armed? We don’t know. Johnson has not answered that question. And the content of the conversation is unclear thanks to a 30-second lag on audio after officers turn on their body cameras, as they are supposed to in an an encounter like this.
Think Progress writes:
Officers must activate their BWCs [body-worn camera] “at the beginning of an incident and will record the entire incident for all law-enforcement-related activities,” the CPD policy says. The relevant activities include all “investigatory stops,” “interrogations,” “searches, including searches of people,” “requests for consent to search,” and “high-risk situations.”
So unless the only officer to comply with this code was the one whose video was released, there may be other video out there with audio. Yet this is the video the CPD chose to release.
In the first moments of the video, Augustus removes a card from his wallet. As noted by Think Progress, from what is visible in the video, the card seems to visually match with the appearance of an Illinois Firearm Owner Identification (FOID). Johnson confirmed in a press conference that Augustus did have a license, though not a concealed carry permit. Guns rights organizations have been typically silent on the shooting, as is generally the case in situations like these, where the victim is black and the aggressors are police officers.
The CPD says that more videos will be released within 60 days. If one of them has audio, perhaps we’ll get some answers as to what exactly happened in the seconds that led to the end of Augustus’ life.