Emails Reveal Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel Was Fully Aware of Laquan McDonald Video Before Release

emanuel_police APCharles Rex Arbogas
AP/Charles Rex Arbogas

Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has maintained since the beginning of the controversy over the 2014 death of a 17-year-old African American teen that he had little knowledge of the police dashcam video of the shooting.

But new evidence shows that Emanuel was fully informed about what the video contained and led his lawyers to quash the release of the video just as he was running for re-election.

Reviews of the Emanuel administration’s emails shows that the Democrat mayor’s legal team also worked to suppress the video, not just during the mayor’s then troubled re-election campaign, but for up to five years afterward.

According to a report at the Daily Beast, official emails shows that the family of Laquan McDonald, who in March of last year was negotiating for a $5 million settlement, balked at the provision that the family could not get the dashcam video released for up to five years.

At one point in the communications, McDonald family attorney Michael Robbins considered the provision “unreasonable.”

“The provision as drafted, that we maintain the confidentiality, of the materials–principally the dash-cam-video—until the criminal charges are concluded, which could be in effect for years, is entirely unreasonable,” the attorney wrote to Emanuel’s team on April 6. “Nor was any such broad sweeping confidentiality provision discussed during our meetings.”

Emanuel has claimed that he was not aware of how bad the video was until a later date, but the emails seems to show that this is not true and that Emanuel had earlier access to a detailed description 0f what the video contained.

Critics have for months claimed that Emanuel kept the damning dashcam video of the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald under wraps to avoid a raging controversy just as he was trying to win his first re-election campaign.

That bid for re-election was already in trouble, too. In fact, Despite having a whopping $30 million re-election warchest, Emanuel was forced into the first runoff election in Chicago city history when he couldn’t win his race outright during the first election early in 2015.

The last thing the mayor needed was a controversial police-involved shooting hanging over his head as he vied for a second term in office against a populist candidate that had more support than Emanuel found comfortable.

Now, with the review of the emails between Emanuel’s office and the McDonald family, suspicions that Emanuel personally involved himself in quashing the dashcam video of the shooting seem easier to believe.

Emanuel has been hard pressed since last November when the dashcam video was released after a court order.

The Daily Beast also noted that Emanuel and his crew were working other means to quash the video.

“Not only do the emails show the effort to cover up what really happened to Laquan McDonald went to the top of the Emanuel administration,” the piece states, “they also show the mayor’s office was pulling strings at the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which, as its name indicates, should be independent.”

According to the emails at least one member of Emanuel’s team was attempting to coordinate with the purportedly independent agency that is supposed to investigate police conduct.

Voices calling for the mayor’s resignation have not subsided since the November release of police dashcam video of the shooting. On Monday of Christmas Week, for instance, an activist group delivered a petition with over 250,000 signatures calling for Emanuel’s resignation over his actions in the McDonald investigation.

And along with the now ubiquitous Black Lives Matter protesters calling for Emanuel to step down, a growing number of disparate groups from the media to a recent call from a group of African American churches have gathered to call for Emanuel’s resignation.

Recriminations are cascading through the city. This week nearly 24 Chicago Police Officers have been disciplined for turning off the video or the audio for the dashboard cameras in their cruisers as the city cracks down on officers attempting to alter dashcam footage.

And the problems are metastasizing farther than just the Laquan McDonald case. On Thursday the African American Firefighters and Paramedics League of Chicago called for Emanuel to step down over the lack of advancement for African American firefighters. The head of the league called Emanuel a racist and a union buster.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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