NEWS BRIEF The unarmed black teenager who officers chased into a backyard in Chicago* last month and fatally shot as he ran away was struck by a bullet in the back, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
The report, obtained Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune, found that Paul O’Neal, 18, died of a single gunshot to the right side of his back. Footage released earlier this month captured O’Neal running from police and bleeding from his back as officers reached him and handcuffed him. Sharon Fairley, the head of Chicago’s police oversight agency, called the shooting “shocking and disturbing” the day police released the videos.
On July 28, officers gave chase to O’Neal because he was driving what police said was a stolen car. In the footage, O’Neal side-swipes a police cruiser, and two officers shoot into the car as he drives past. That action could be found to violate Chicago police policy, because firing into a moving vehicle—if that vehicle is the only weapon that poses a threat to officers—is not allowed by the department. O’Neal eventually crashed to a stop down the street and ran from the car into a backyard.
The incident was captured by nine body and dashboard cameras, and the department released the footage a week later. The release signaled a significant change for Chicago police, the force that once spent nearly a year trying to block the release of footage of the death of Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old police shot 16 times before he died in October 2014. After the legal struggle, the department promised to release future footage within 60 days of a shooting. The department delivered in O’Neal’s case, but footage from the camera worn by the officer who shot O’Neal is missing; police said the device was either turned off or had malfunctioned.
Chicago police has not publicly identified the officers involved in the O’Neal shooting. The Chicago Tribune has fought to release the names:
The Independent Police Review Authority declined to give the officers' names in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Tribune, releasing a document last week with the officers' names blacked out. The agency cited, among other parts of state records law, a clause that allows an agency to withhold information if disclosure would “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person.”
The city’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) is investigating the shooting and will recommend an action. Since Fairley became chief of the oversight agency in January, the IPRA has deemed a record-number of shootings unjustified. But those designations do not mean the officers involved will be charged with any violations. A July investigation by the Tribune found that even when the IPRA recommended action, it usually sought light punishments.
* This article originally stated the shooting took place in a Chicago suburb. We regret the error.