Videos released in Chicago police killing; questions persist in Baltimore shooting

Bodycam video from one of the Chicago officers involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Paul O'Neal. (Photo Credit: Independent Police Review Authority)

Two more incidents of black people killed by police are galvanizing the movement for accountability in law enforcement this week. FSRN’s Nell Abram has more.

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In Chicago, the Independent Police Review Authority released video Friday of the events that led to the shooting death of an unarmed black youth last Thursday. Multiple officers opened fire as Paul O’Neal crashed an allegedly stolen vehicle. Despite body-worn and dash-cam video recorded during the incident, the fatal shot was not captured, but the 18-year-old ran from the car and was shot in the back as he tried to flee.

The video was made public just days after Baltimore police killed a young black mother, Korryn Gaines, while she was holed up in her apartment with her 5-year-old son.

An officer shot Gaines after an hours-long armed stand-off, during which Gaines posted to Facebook. Saying they needed to control negotiations, law enforcement asked Facebook moderators to suspend her account – and the social media platform complied.

Police admit they fired first, striking the woman who then returned fire. The child was also hurt, but is expected to recover.

Family members want to know why the standoff ended in police use of lethal force.

“Why would they kill her over standing her ground in her own home?” the dead woman’s aunt Shannon Gaines told WBAL-TV. “She wasn’t shooting at them, she wasn’t openly firing on police officers. She was sitting on the floor of her apartment.”

Both cases add to a string of police killings caught on video in recent months. The rapid spread of information on social media has sparked widespread calls for police accountability and even abolition.

Earlier this week, protesters calling for changes in law enforcement leadership encamped in Los Angeles and Chicago were joined in New York City – with calls for the Mayor to fire embattled NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Just one day later, Bratton announced his pending resignation, though both he and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted the timing was coincidental: “110 percent had nothing to do with this.”

Bratton is an architect of so-called “broken windows” law enforcement, in which police aggressively pursue disorderly conduct on the theory that there is a trickle-up effect on major crimes. Critics say the model, now used in cities across the country, is inherently biased and exacerbates tension between officers and the communities they are sworn to serve.

“It’s a racist mechanism of social control – they know it, we know it,” said Joel Northam, one of the organizers of a New York coalition of police abolitionists who are occupying a park across from City Hall. “Frederick Douglass said it back in 1845 when he said, ‘They whipped the slaves for the slightest offenses to discourage them from committing larger ones.’ That exactly what we are seeing police do with broken windows.”

Two police officers were convicted this week on charges related to the shootings of unarmed citizens. In Baltimore, an officer was convicted of assault in the non-fatal shooting of a 46-year-old burglary suspect and in Portsmouth, Virginia another officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of a black teen accused of shoplifting.

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