The use of body cameras to minimize the lack of police accountability when arrests turn fatal is something many saw as a necessity, but a recent officer-involved killing in Chicago has the community in an uproar yet again after the cameras were prevented from serving their primary purpose.
Protestors took to the streets of Chicago over the weekend after police body cam footage released to the public conveniently failed at the moment officers fatally shot 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, who was unarmed, last month. While footage released to the public from nine body cameras recorded the moments immediately before and after police officers gunned down O’Neal, the recording then cuts out and picks back up as the officers are standing over O’Neal’s body and yelling for him to put his hands behind his back. The earlier moments in the footage show officers chasing after a Jaguar that they believed to have been stolen by O’Neal before one officer opened fire on the car after claiming O’Neal tried to run over one of the other officers present. O’Neal is then seen fleeing from the car as police chase him into a nearby backyard with guns pointed as they run. The footage then suddenly shows a group of officers standing over O’Neal as he’s down on the ground and bleeding profusely. He was prounonced dead from a gunshot wound to the back at Northwestern Memorial Hospital shortly after the shooting.
Local activists and many who have seen the video footage are finding it rightfully suspicious that the actual shooting wasn’t captured by the body cameras, suggesting that the officer who shot O’Neal turned his camera off at the time of the shooting. The Chicago PD has offered little explanation for the missing footage, with a department spokesperson saying that the camera may have been damaged when the stolen car crashed into the police cruiser. Superintendent Eddie Johnson blamed the questionable mishap on the fact that the officers had only been using the body cams for a one week prior to the fatal shooting of O’Neal. “They had had those cameras maybe about a week. … There’s going to be a learning curve,” Johnson said during a press conference last week.
The officers involved in the shooting have reportedly been “releieved of their police duties” as the investigation into O’Neal’s death continues.