Cedrick Chatman (Chapman Family Photo)
CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge again criticized the city of Chicago Thursday for how it dealt with a police-shooting video as he tossed a civil case against one of two officers involved in a fatal 2013 shooting of a Black teenager suspected in a carjacking.
Judge Robert Gettleman’s ruling cites video of Cedrick Chatman’s shooting that was unsealed last week and shows that Officer Lou Toth didn’t shoot at the 17-year-old. Gettleman says it also shows Toth could not have stopped his partner, Kevin Fry, from firing the fatal shots.
The civil case, brought by Chatman’s mother, will proceed against Fry. Neither officer was ever charged criminally.
Before allowing the video to be made public last week, Gettleman criticized the city for its about-face — for battling against its release on legal grounds for months only to suddenly declare that it supported the video release on policy grounds.
Gettleman echoed that criticism Thursday and questioned why city lawyers didn’t submit the video with its June request — now granted — to toss the case against Toth. Gettleman offered his own theory: Making the video part of the city’s June motion, he suggested, increased the likelihood that it would have been made public months ago.
“The only reason the court can speculate as to why counsel did not submit the video in defense of Officer Toth is the City’s then-current policy of keeping videos of police shootings out of the public eye,” he wrote.
He said high-profile police shootings cases may have driven the city’s change of heart. The November release of video showing a white officer fatally shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald led to calls for greater transparency in all police-shooting cases.
A message seeking comment on Gettleman’s assertions from the city’s laws department wasn’t immediately returned
The Chatman suit argues Toth could have done more to stop Fry from shooting Chatman.
But Gettleman notes just six seconds elapsed from the time Chatman jumped from a car he allegedly stole to Fry shooting the teenager. Since Toth was in front of Fry as they chased Chatman, Gettleman wrote, Toth couldn’t have seen Fry was about to shoot.
Gettleman also suggests both Toth and Fry were justified in immediately drawing their guns as they stopped the car Chatman was driving.
“Carjacking itself is a violent crime, and given the circumstances they had every reason to believe the occupant was dangerous,” he wrote.