Release the Video

A wood fire burns in the street in front of the 4th Police Precinct, Minneapolis, Minn., as part of an ongoing protest following the police shooting of Jamar Clark. Photo: Kevin Featherly A wood fire burns in the street in front of the 4th Police Precinct, Minneapolis, Minn., as part of an ongoing protest following the police shooting of Jamar Clark. Photo: Kevin Featherly

“Ultimately [17-year-old Laquan McDonald] was described as lunging at the officers who defended themselves. It was described as a clear-cut case of self-defense. This is the story that was put out by the police department within hours of Laquan McDonald’s death. And it has been the narrative of the city until recently.” — Independent Chicago journalist Jamie Kelvin, whose work helped force the release of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video

The video released in Chicago last week proves one thing beyond question: The police story in the Laquan McDonald shooting was a lie. Not a misstatement of fact. Not an NFL referee’s myopic blunder. Not a teenager’s wee exaggeration. A flat-out lie.

This is why it is imperative that all available video of the Jamar Clark shooting in Minneapolis be released—now. The tired old saw that such a release will “inhibit an investigation” won’t hold. Given the chain of events, given what people can see with their own eyes emanating out of nearby Chicago, Minneapolis’ African-American community is not about to wait a year as did the citizens of Chicago. Nor will a substantial part of its non-African-American community.

We do not know that Minneapolis cops lied about the Clark shooting. They could be telling the absolute truth. We can hope they are telling the truth.

What we know now definitively, however—if any further evidence was really needed—is that cops sometimes lie. And when they do, unions, police administrators and city officials alike are perfectly willing to circle the wagons and back up the lie, particularly when it involves use of deadly force.

In Chicago’s McDonald case, city officials knew about this lie 400 days ago. No other conclusion is feasible. They had the dash cam video in their hands in October 2014. And yet—this is most peculiar—first-degree murder charges were filed against the shooter cop only after a judge ruled the video must be released to the public.

Also—again, most peculiar—the prosecutor making the charges publicly cited only two pieces of evidence in filing criminal charges: the video and the account of a single eyewitness. Being generous about the time spent locating and interviewing that key witness and transcribing the results, officials knew all they apparently needed to know one or two days, maybe a week—could it conceivably be as long as a month?—after McDonald’s death. Yet charges were filed only last week, hurriedly, in an apparent rush to get ahead of the video’s devastating, incontrovertible truth.

True, the video has had repercussions. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder. But for the video, that likely never would have happened. Just today, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who likely faces his own day of reckoning because of this controversy, fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.

Merrill Champion stands outside the 4th Minneapolis Police precinct on Nov. 27, as part of the ongoing "Justice 4 Jamar" protests. Photo: Kevin Featherly

Merrill Champion stands outside the 4th Minneapolis Police precinct on Nov. 27, as part of the ongoing “Justice 4 Jamar” protests. Photo: Kevin Featherly

Shift focus now to Minneapolis: This city last week saw five “Justice 4 Jamar” protesters shot, apparently by white supremacists. They, too, have been charged. It appears that at least one of them is one of two men who appeared in a live-streaming video, shot while they drove to the Fourth Precinct protesters’ encampment Nov. 19, while packing heat and spouting white supremacist gibberish. Which means we have a problem. One of the few things those two were heard to state intelligibly on that video was that part of their motivation was belief in the police version of events.

“We’re going to go see what these dindus are dinduing about, because apparently fighting police and fighting paramedics is good enough to let you off with a slap on the wrist, especially when you go for an officer’s weapon. So, yeah! A little reverse cultural enriching.” — “Saiga Ranger,” from an apparent white supremacist selfie video posted by Black Lives Matter.

According to police, Clark was shot after interfering with emergency medical workers and after lunging for a cop’s gun when police responded. That, of course, would be greater than a providential miracle if witnesses to his shooting, who said Clark was handcuffed before he was shot in the head, did not dream up their story.

Cops deserve due process. But not in slow motion. They deserve the same investigative diligence offered to anyone in society who is accused of homicide.

No identified civilian shooting suspect roams the streets for 400 days without facing charges—subsidized by a government desk job, no less—until authorities scrape over every scintilla of evidence. Authorities already know what is on the Jamar Clark shooting video. Minneapolis’ citizenry cannot wait a year to know what its leaders already know.

We deserve to know what happened. What’s more, as the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information points out, we have a legal right to know what happened:

Even after a criminal investigation has been opened, certain data still remains public, even though other, related data gets converted into various forms of “not public” data. Data that is public “at all times” includes certain arrest data, including data documenting whether any weapons were used by police, or whether there was any resistance encountered by police. If this data exists in the form of a video recording, any portion of the recording that documents such details is public data. In the Jamar Clark case, the BCA has indicated that it holds certain video of the incident.

Release the video.

A makeshift barricade marks the space claimed by protesters outside  the 4th Police Precinct, Minneapolis, Minn., following the police shooting of Jamar Clark. Photo: Kevin Featherly

A makeshift barricade marks the space claimed by protesters outside the 4th Police Precinct, Minneapolis, Minn., following the police shooting of Jamar Clark. Photo: Kevin Featherly

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