UPDATE: 4:00 p.m. EST -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday's announcement that charges will not be filed against the officer who shot Ronald Johnson III in 2014 presents an opportunity for officials to review their use of force policies. "A life was lost here, and that is a tragedy that can't be taken lightly no matter the circumstances," Emanuel said in a statement, via a Twitter account for the mayor's office.
Statement from Mayor Emanuel on Ronald Johnson pic.twitter.com/59g1mXHuSb
— ChicagosMayor (@ChicagosMayor) December 7, 2015
After recently filing a murder charge against a Chicago police officer who is seen on video firing 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, a local prosecutor announced Monday that no criminal charges will be filed against another officer who fatally wounded Ronald Johnson III. Johnson was killed just eight days before McDonald under somewhat similar circumstances.
The difference? Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said squad car video of Johnson’s 2014 shooting shows the 25-year-old black man wielding a gun. But Johnson’s family attorney and protesters have challenged that claim, particularly because squad car video disproved police officials’ claim that a McDonald, who had a small knife, lunged at officers before his death.
WARNING: This video clip contains graphic images of police activity in Chicago.
Alvarez, who played the video of Johnson’s shooting and 911 recordings at a news conference Monday, said it was “reasonable and permissible” for Officer George Hernandez to open fire at the man, the Chicago Tribune reported. Johnson had been running away from officers and toward a police vehicle and a public park in the city’s South Side neighborhood, before Hernandez fired five shots.
Police officers claimed that they saw a gun in Johnson’s hand after he fell to the ground. Alvarez’s office sent the squad car video to an FBI laboratory to establish visual proof that was gun was present before Johnson was shot. The weapon found at the scene was loaded and was eventually connected to a shooting from 2013, an assistant state's attorney said in the news conference.
Police have described Johnson as a known Chicago gang member, but attorney Michael Oppenheimer, who represents the Johnson family, alleged that police planted the gun, the Tribune reported. Johnson had been an occupant in a car that had its windshield shot at on on Oct. 12, 2014. When Johnson’s vehicle encountered police prior to the shooting, a struggle not captured on video ensued.
Upon release of video Monday, several members of the public cast their doubts about police version of events. McDonald’s Oct. 20, 2014 shooting prompted protests that garnered the national spotlight, along with calls for Alvarez’s resignation and a probe into police use of force by the U.S. Department of Justice.
— Pharaoh R. El-Aton (@PharaohElAton) December 7, 2015
Based on what I've heard so far, there is no dubt that Cook County State Atttorney Alvarez is facilitating a cover-up. #RonaldJohnson
— Jonathan Langdale (@jlangdale) December 7, 2015