Videos show Chicago police firing at fleeing car and handcuffing dying suspect
Videos from the fatal shooting of teenager Paul O’Neal by Chicago police show officers firing down a street as O’Neal sped away from them in a reportedly stolen car and, moments later, officers handcuffing O’Neal as he lay mortally wounded behind a South Shore home.
Acting with uncharacteristic swiftness, Chicago officials on Friday made public nine videos in all. Shortly before the 11 a.m. release, the head of the Chicago police oversight agency called the video footage “shocking and disturbing” and said that her heart went out to the family of 18-year-old O’Neal.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, relatives of O’Neal said they were devastated after watching the videos earlier in the day at the headquarters of the Independent Police Review Authority, which released the footage.
“It was disturbing, very disturbing,” said O’Neal’s sister Briana Adams. “I want everybody to know that Paul was loved by my mother, his family, me.”
Adams spoke at the office of the O’Neal family attorney, Michael Oppenheimer. She said her brother had graduated from high school and wanted to go to a trade school and perhaps work for the local electric utility one day.
Chicago police investigate July 29, 2016, a police-involved fatal shooting that happened the day before in the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
Police officers set up crime scene tape July 28, 2016, at the corner of 73rd Street and South Merrill Avenue.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Police block off the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue on July 28, 2016, in Chicago.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
A neighbor records the scene on his smartphone in the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue on July 28, 2016, where police fatally shot 18-year-old Paul O’Neal during a confrontation.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
A Chicago police sergeant instructs officers at a shooting scene in the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue late on July 28, 2016.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
Neighbors watch as their street becomes a crime scene at the corner of 73rd Street and South Merrill Avenue on July 28, 2016, in Chicago.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
A neighbor looks around as her street becomes a crime scene on the 7300 block of South Merrill Avenue on July 28, 2016, in Chicago.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
A police sergeant talks with neighbors as a man records the interaction with his cellphone at the corner of East 73rd Street and South Merrill Avenue on July 28, 2016, in Chicago.(John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)
She decided to watch the videos herself because she wanted to know the truth of what happened. And she had a message for city leaders.
“We just want answers — the truth,” she said.
Earlier in the day, Oppenheimer called the video footage “beyond horrific” and said he planned to call for a special prosecutor to look into the shooting of the unarmed teen.
“There is no question in my mind that criminal acts were committed,” said Oppenheimer, a former prosecutor. “What I saw was pretty cold-blooded.”
The videos show officers firing on the reportedly stolen Jaguar as it drove away from them. Their shots appear to place officers who were farther down the street in the possible line of fire, in danger of being shot themselves. The city’s use-of-force policy explicitly bars police from firing at a moving vehicle if it represents the only threat against officers.
The videos capture at least 15 shots being fired in about five seconds as the Jaguar passed the officers and drove away.
In the minutes after the shooting, the officers’ comments suggest that at least one of them suspected O’Neal had shot at them.
“They shot at us, too, right?” an officer asked.
According to Oppenheimer, one officer can be heard uttering an expletive and saying, “Now I’m going to get a 30-day suspension.”
O’Neal’s family is suing the department.
Ja’Mal Green, a spokesman for the O’Neal family, said he was disturbed by one video that showed a few officers appearing to commend each other after the shooting, shaking hands.
“They did everything but high-five each other,” Oppenheimer said.
Oppenheimer said the videos expose the need to improve officers’ training.
“This goes down to training on race, this goes down to training on the community,” he said. “There’s a lot that needs to be done. Some of it has been done. We have a long way to go.”
Oppenheimer accused the officer who fired the fatal shot of intentionally shutting down his body camera so no footage would capture that moment.
“They decided they would control this, so the cover-up has begun,” he said.
Green said the officers showed no remorse, letting O’Neal lie handcuffed “for a long time.”
“That was very shocking to me,” he said. “It was very hard for me to watch this video as well.”
Sharon Fairley, chief administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, said in a statement Friday that the agency is proceeding “as deliberately and expediently as possible in pursuit of a swift but fair determination” into the fatal shooting of O’Neal.
Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson took quick action after the shooting, stripping three officers of their police powers and saying it appeared they had violated departmental policies
Officers tried to stop O’Neal about 7:30 p.m. July 28 in the South Shore neighborhood as he drove the reportedly stolen Jaguar convertible, police said. Surveillance cameras tied O’Neal and three others to a series of car thefts, officials said.
O’Neal struck two Chicago police vehicles in the sports car, and two officers fired at him while he was in the car, authorities said. O’Neal fled from the car, police said, and a third officer chased him behind a home. After O’Neal refused to stop, the officer shot him.
O’Neal, who was unarmed, died of a gunshot wound to the back, authorities said.
The shooting itself was not captured on video, department officials said, even though the officer who chased and shot O’Neal was wearing a body camera. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pointed to body cameras as a tool to build trust in the police; department officials have not said why the camera did not record the shooting.
The city’s quick moves after O’Neal’s shooting show how much has changed in the eight months since the release of video of a white police officer shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer who shot McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, is charged with murder.
The McDonald video — and long-simmering dissatisfaction with police use of force among many African Americans — led to sustained protests, and the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation to determine whether police had systematically violated residents’ rights. Federally enforced changes could come from that ongoing investigation, and Emanuel has announced or enacted a raft of reforms to policing and officer oversight.
Hinkel writes for the Chicago Tribune
1:50 p.m.: This article was updated with reaction from the family of Paul O’Neal.
10:10 a.m.: This article was updated with the release of nine police videos in the shooting.
This article was originally published at 9:15 a.m.
Must-read stories from the L.A. Times
Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.