The National Black Lawyers

FBI investigation underway in deadly police shooting of teen that cost taxpayers $5 million

November 18, 2019
Laquan McDonald at graduation | Provided photo
Laquan McDonald at graduation | Provided photo

A City Council Committee agreed Monday to pay $5 million to the family of a black teenager shot 16 times by a Chicago Police officer — even before a lawsuit was filed — amid word that the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald is the subject of an FBI investigation.

Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton disclosed the existence of a “pending and active” state and federal investigation of the October 20, 2014, shooting as he justified the unusual settlement before a lawsuit was filed. In a statement issued Monday afternoon, the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed that the FBI office in Chicago was leading the investigation “in coordination with the Independent Police Review Authority, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.”

The shooting followed a police chase that ensued after a man called 911 to report that a knife-wielding offender had threatened him and was attempting to break into vehicles in an Archer Heights trucking yard at 41st and Kildare.

Two police officers responded to the call and found the alleged offender, subsequently identified as 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, about a block away holding a knife in his right hand, Patton said.

When McDonald was ordered to show his hands, the knife was visible, Patton said. When the teenager was ordered to drop the knife, he ignored the demand and kept walking along 40th Street toward Pulaski away from the officers.

Patton then described a chase that saw one of the officers follow McDonald on foot “kind of beside” the teenager while the other officer followed behind in a marked squad car and called a dispatcher to request a back-up unit with a Taser.

The chase continued until McDonald neared Pulaski, potentially endangering civilians. That’s when the officer in the squad car pulled in front of the teenager to block his path. According to Patton, McDonald responded by using the knife to puncture one of the squad car’s front tires and struck the windshield with a knife before continuing through a Burger King parking lot and onto Pulaski.

By that point, two additional squad cars had reported to the scene, one of them equipped with a dashboard camera that recorded the deadly shooting. The squad car with the camera followed behind McDonald.

The other squad car pulled up beside, then in front of the teenager and both officers jumped out with their guns drawn. One of those two officers then opened fire and shot McDonald 16 times, all of it captured on videotape.

The shooting officer contends that McDonald was moving toward him and that he opened fire to protect himself.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have countered that the teenager was continuing to walk away from police at the time of the shooting. Patton said the video supports that version of events and that McDonald posed no imminent threat because there were no pedestrians or vehicles nearby at the time of the shooting.

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