Did Rahm Emanuel Delay Laquan McDonald Video for Re-Election?

Rahm Emanuel and Jesus Chuy Garcia (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)
Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press

With Tuesday’s release of the dashcam video of the death of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald, some are asking if the video was held back to help Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reelection campaign earlier this year.

The shooting of the 17-year-old occurred in October 2014, but until this week officials had refused to release the video, which shows the teenager’s final moments at the hands of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

The delay even caused Obama confidant David Axelrod to ask, “Why did it take a year to indict a CPD officer who shot a kid 16 times? Would it have happened today if judge hadn’t ordered video release?”

Additionally, no movement was made on the case during that year-long hiatus. Van Dyke was only charged with first-degree murder after Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama demanded its release by November 25, 2015, responding to a journalist’s public records request under the Freedom of Information Act.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said of the video, “It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling. This video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

It is not clear, however, why she is charging Van Dyke with first-degree murder instead of a lesser but more provable offense, like manslaughter.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer also wondered if the charges against the police officer after a year’s delay was made with ulterior motives in mind. During his Tuesday broadcast, Blitzer wondered aloud if the charge of first-degree murder was handed down in an effort to avert violence by protesters.

CNN commentator Mel Robbins also slammed Emanuel and the city for holding the video back for almost a year, calling the decision an act of “cowardice.”

“True leaders don’t hide the truth, they reveal it. True leaders focus on doing what’s right. Not delaying the tough decision until it ‘feels’ like the right time,” Robbins wrote on November 24.

Emanuel had faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Alderman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in his bid for re-election earlier this year. Emmanuel won with the reluctant support of Chicago’s black community, which had been outraged by Emanuel’s closure of schools in black neighborhoods but preferred Emanuel to a Latino mayor.

As one black voter told the New York Times: “I ain’t voting for no Chuy. I ain’t voting for a Mexican.”

On Tuesday evening, as protesters faned out across the city to protest McDonald’s shooting, the city racked up its 450th homicide for 2015. There is still just over a month before the year is done. Total homicides for 2014 reached 460, so it appears that this year the city will easily surpass last year’s deadly toll.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.