The Corner

Law & the Courts

Was Cedrick Chatman a Threat? New Video Suggests Another Questionable Chicago Police Shooting

It’s not dispositive, but following the release of the Laquan McDonald video and the revelations that Rahm Emanuel & co. almost certainly worked to bury it until after his tough reelection contest, the newly released video of the shooting of Cedrick Chatman in 2013 raises serious questions:

Cedrick Chatman, 17, was shot on January 7, 2013, by Officer Kevin Fry. . . . [The videos] show Chatman jumping out of a car that was reported stolen, running across the street and squeezing between two parked cars as Fry’s partner, Officer Lou Toth, gives chase. Chatman then hits an all-out sprint along the sidewalk toward an intersection. Toth sprints behind him.

Fry draws his Sig Sauer .45-caliber handgun in the middle of the street, plants his feet near the intersection and opens fire as Chatman appears to still be running away. A wounded, unarmed Chatman lies in the street as Toth handcuffs him and places his right boot on top of him. The whole event takes about 10 seconds.

Here’s a compilation video, which shows the chase and shooting from two perspectives. At the end, Toth is visible standing over Chatman:

The video clearly shows Chatman running away from the officers. So was there any other reason the police may have believed he presented an imminent threat? The police explained the shooting this way:

“As Mr. Chatman approaches the corner, he makes a slight turn, a subtle turn to the right with his upper body. I see in his right hand a dark gray or black object,” Fry said, according to court records. “It was a small black object, which I believed to be a handgun.” Fearing for his partner’s life, Fry fired four shots.

The object turned out to be a black iPhone box. Asked during a deposition whether the object was ever pointed at the two officers, Fry said, “No.”

As the Chicago Tribune rightly editorialized on Thursday evening, the video is not conclusive. But the optics are not reassuring.

And there is this added wrinkle:

The original independent police investigator wanted to rule the shooting unjustified, saying the teen fled from Fry and Toth without posing a threat. That investigator, Lorenzo Davis, said he was fired when he refused to change his findings to a justified shooting.

A new investigator was assigned and ruled the shooting justified.

Fry has had 30 complaints lodged against him over the years, including 10 allegations of excessive use of force. The police department found every complaint against him to be unwarranted.

I normally incline to give the police the benefit of the doubt. Policing, even the “routine” aspects of it, is dangerous work, especially on the South Side of Chicago. But this is a case that bears close scrutiny — and so does the relationship between the city’s elected officials and its law enforcement.

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