POLITICS
11/25/2015 03:35 pm ET Updated Nov 27, 2015

Chicago Police Really Didn't Want To Release Video Of A Cop Shooting Laquan McDonald 16 Times

It took over a year for the video to become public.

When Chicago city officials released the dashcam video of police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Tuesday, it marked the culmination of a months-long effort by journalists and other advocates to get the video released.

Officials had said that releasing the video would jeopardize an ongoing investigation into the incident and a fair trial for the officer. But after a judge last week determined those explanations to be bunk, the city was forced to release the video, which it did on Tuesday.

Here's how that process unfolded:

Oct. 20, 2014

Laquan McDonald is shot and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Police say after the incident that McDonald was behaving strangely and had lunged at officers with a knife when they opened fire. Initial reports don't mention how many times McDonald was shot. The Independent Police Review Authority Board begins to investigate.

Nov. 4, 2014

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez obtains the video and begins investigating the incident. Alvarez would later defend not releasing the video after having possession of it for so long, saying that she was conducting a "meticulous" investigation.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez first obtained the dashcam video in early November of 2014.
Scott Olson via Getty Images
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez first obtained the dashcam video in early November of 2014.

Dec. 8, 2014

Journalist Jamie Kalven and Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago Law School professor, release a statement calling on Chicago police to release the dashcam video of the incident. Futterman and Kalven had been alerted to the video's existence by a whistleblower, who told them the video was horrific.

February 2015

Kalven obtains a copy of McDonald's final autopsy report, which says that McDonald was shot 16 times.

March 2015

The Chicago Tribune files three separate Freedom of Information Act requests to Chicago's law department, the police department and the Independent Police Review Authority Board. All three requests are denied.

April 2015

The Chicago City Council approves a $5 million settlement with McDonald's family before they even file a lawsuit. Aldermen are not shown the video of the incident before approving the settlement, even though city Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton said the footage influenced the city's decision to settle before a lawsuit.

Officials also confirm that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois are conducting a criminal probe into Van Dyke.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) says that the police and FBI are withholding the video while they conduct an investigation, and city officials say releasing it would jeopardize a fair trial.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) defended not releasing the video, saying that it would jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
Neilson Barnard via Getty Images
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) defended not releasing the video, saying that it would jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

May 2015

A Burger King district manager tells NBC Chicago that he believes police deleted security footage from the restaurant that captured moments surrounding the incident, whichMcDonald's family attorney claims would have given some context for the shooting. In a statement at the time, the Independent Police Review Authority Board says it has no credible evidence to believe that police officers deleted footage. 

On May 26, freelance journalist Brandon Smith files a Freedom of Information Act request with the Chicago Police Department requesting the video, and the department asks him for an extension on his request until late July.

August 2015

After Smith's Freedom of Information Act request is denied, he files a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department to force them to release the video, claiming that the department is simply refusing to do so for public relations reasons.

In a piece explaining why he's suing the city, Smith says that CPD told him they had denied at least 15 Freedom of Information Act requests for the footage.

Nov. 18, 2015

The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) sends a letter to police saying that they cannot withhold the video, and saying that claims that releasing it would interfere with an ongoing investigation or jeopardize a fair trial are "unsubstantiated."

The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that the Chicago Police Department could not withhold the video fro
Mark Wilson via Getty Images
The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that the Chicago Police Department could not withhold the video from the public.

Nov. 19, 2015

Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama orders the city to release the video by Nov. 25 and denies the city's request for a stay. Chicago legal officials say that they won't appeal the decision.

Nov. 24, 2015

City officials release footage of McDonald's death, which shows him walking away from police when he is shot, contradicting initial police reports of the incident.

Emanuel and Chicago Police Commissioner Garry McCarthy hold a press conference to discuss McDonald's death, but Smith, the reporter who sued the police department, isn't allowed to enter.

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