Eight days before Laquan McDonald’s body was riddled with 16 bullets by a Chicago police officer in October 2014, Ronald Johnson III, 25, eight years older than McDonald, met a similar fate. Johnson, who was shot in the back by a white officer, allegedly pointed a gun at police before he was shot down. As with McDonald, a dashcam video revealed exactly what happened.
However, that video, in much the same manner as in the McDonald case, has been the source of tension between the police and the families of the victims, each family charging that a police cover-up occurred, possibly with the cooperation of a number of city officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
While the McDonald tragedy has received the most attention recently, Johnson’s murder is finally getting new coverage after it was announced Monday by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez that Officer George Hernandez would not be charged in the Johnson case.
Dorothy Holmes, Johnson’s mother, and her attorney, Michael Oppenheimer, said they believe there was a cover-up in Johnson’s death. They also said that if there was a gun, it was planted by the police. According to a few who have seen the video, it’s hard to tell if Johnson had a gun in his hand as he ran away from the police. It is reported that the video has no sound, so there is no evidence that the police yelled for Johnson to stop.
Alvarez told the press that the video shows that Johnson had “an object in his hand” and also said there was other evidence he was carrying a gun, including Johnson’s DNA found on a gun recovered at the scene.
Meanwhile, Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot and killed McDonald, has been charged with first-degree murder, though several fellow officers have presented testimony that runs counter to what the video reveals.
At the moment, Emanuel is caught in the throes of angry cops who feel that the former superintendent of the police, Garry McCarthy, who was forced to resign, is the fall guy in the alleged cover-up. Community activists have held several rallies demanding that the mayor resign. He said he was not about to resign and that he can only be replaced by voters.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that a federal civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department will be conducted with the purpose of searching for patterns of unconstitutional policing practices throughout the force.
Emanuel, in a statement to the press, said he welcomed the Justice Department’s investigation.
The police shootings of Johnson and McDonald and the current debate over the release of videos come just as Spike Lee’s film “Chi-Raq” is now appearing nationwide in theaters. His film focuses on the prevalence of Black-on-Black violence and shootings, though he could have found a more current issue of violence with the police shootings of Black men.