Paul O’Neal, an 18 year-old unarmed black man, seeking to escape police in a stolen vehicle, sideswiped a squad car injuring officers. The Chicago patrolmen shot O’Neal while he was driving away. O’Neal died prior to reaching hospital.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson, seeking to re-build trust in wake of Laquan McDonald scandal, demonstrates unprecedented transparency and takes immediate action, relieving the two officers of powers who apparently violated a 2105 policy prohibiting officers from “firing at or into a moving vehicle when the vehicle is the only force used against the sworn member or another person.” Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority quickly took possession of body and dash cam videos and promised to post them online within 60 days.
In the context of several highly controversial officer-involved shootings, the beleaguered Chicago Police Department has demonstrated unusual transparency and a willingness to take immediate, if tentative, disciplinary action. This new approach could be ground-breaking.
Officers stopped a stolen Jaguar convertible and were exiting their own vehicle when the driver sped away, sideswiping a squad car and a parked vehicle in the process. Two officers fired their weapons, wounding O’Neal in the back. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The department said some officers were injured. According to the Associated Press,”The handling of officer-involved shootings in Chicago has come under intense scrutiny since the release last November of a video that shows a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. That shooting, and the initial statements by a union spokesman about McDonald lunging at police that turned out to contradict what was on the video, raised serious questions about what the public was being told about police shootings.”
In contrast, the department immediately described the situation and explained what they were doing to investigate the shooting. First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante on the scene spoke to the media and investigators from the Independent Police Review Authority immediately acquired footage from the officers body and dash cams and promised to post the videos online within 60 days, per city policy.
Police did not find a gun, either on the street or inside the stolen vehicle.
There is a possible defense as the policy also says that officers “will not unreasonably endanger themselves or another person to conform to the restrictions of this directive,” meaning they had the right to defend themselves if they or someone else were in imminent danger of being struck by the car.