When Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was finally arrested on Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014, President Obama’s former top political adviser, David Axelrod, a Chicago political operative, wanted to know why it took more than a year to resolve the case.
But the question touched off a mini-firestorm on Twitter after observers noted that Axelrod’s longtime pal and fellow Obama White House crony is the top dog in Chicago and has supported withholding police dash cam video showing McDonald’s gruesome killing.
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?
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 24, 2015
The response to Axelrod’s tweet was swift, with many Twitter users pointing out to “Axe” that if he wanted an answer to the question he should talk to Emanuel, who is in his second term as mayor of the Windy City. (RELATED: Video Of Chicago Officer Shooting Black Teen Released)
Axelrod and Emanuel go way back. Besides working together in the Obama White House — Axelrod was Obama’s chief strategist; Emanuel was chief of staff — the longtime political operative served as chief adviser for Emanuel in 2006 when he chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
And Axelrod also publicly supported Emanuel during a tough re-election campaign that saw him prevail in a runoff in April against Chuy Garcia, a progressive Democrat.
As many of Axelrod’s interlocutors pointed out on Tuesday, had video of McDonald’s shooting been released before that election, Emanuel may very well have lost that race.
And one of those making that argument forcefully was John Kass, a columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
— John Kass (@John_Kass) November 25, 2015
Kass also penned a column slamming Emanuel for failing to hold himself accountable for his police department’s actions, both in the shooting and in blocking the release of the video.
“The mayor of Chicago talked a lot about accountability just before he released the police video showing Laquan McDonald gunned down by a cop,” Kass wrote.
“But what of the mayor’s accountability? He sat on the video for months. If voters had seen it, he wouldn’t have been re-elected. So it all worked out for him.”
Kass notes that after the Oct. 20, 2014 incident, Emanuel and City Hall paid $5 million in taxpayer money to settle the case with McDonald’s family even before a lawsuit was filed.
“And then the Emanuel administration wasted a boatload of cash on legal fees and other legal work, trying for months and months to keep Chicago from seeing that video the mayor said he’d never seen,” Kass writes.
“Rahm sat on the video, and kept sitting on it, all the way through his re-election, as black ministers and other African-American political figures rallied to his side to get out the black vote and deny that vote to Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia,” the columnist continued.
“If the video had come out during the election campaign, Rahm Emanuel would not be mayor today.”
It was not until that settlement was reached in April that rumors began to swirl about a disturbing video showing Van Dyke, who is white, emptying his clip into McDonald.
Kass also faults the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus, which voted in support of the $5 million settlement.
“But if they’d demanded that the video be shown — before the election — Rahm would have cut them off at their knees.
Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in to prosecutors and was charged with first-degree murder just hours before the video was released to the public on Tuesday.
The footage, which Emanuel maintained during a press conference on Tuesday that he still had not seen, shows Van Dyke standing near his police SUV as McDonald, who was high on PCP and carrying a knife, walking in the middle of Chicago street.
Van Dyke then opens fire on McDonald, who is seen spinning around and then falling onto the street as bullets hit his body. Though McDonald was clearly incapacitated, Van Dyke continued shooting, and smoke can be seen rising up from the teenager’s lifeless body.
After emptying his 15-round clip and a bullet in the chamber, Van Dyke reportedly attempted to reload his gun before a fellow officer stopped him.
“There will be a judgment and he’ll be held accountable for his actions,” Emanuel said during Tuesday’s press conference. “There’s also a judgment for all of us. At one level it’s about him individually, but we as a city must also do certain things.”
As recently as two weeks ago, Emanuel said that he opposed releasing the video of the shooting because it would be inappropriate during a pending investigation. A Cook County judge forced the release of the video when he ruled last week that the city had failed to prove that releasing the footage would jeopardize its investigation.