#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Paul O’Neal?

A Chicago police officer who fatally shot Paul O’Neal after he crashed a reportedly stolen Jaguar into two police vehicles said in a report that he shot the 18-year-old after he saw him reaching into his waistband, and after he “perceived” shots had come from the teen.

That disclosure was found in heavily redacted police reports related to the July 28 incident that were released by the Chicago Police Department on Friday, a week after the city, with unprecedented swiftness, released several video clips that captured parts of the confrontation between the officers and the unarmed teen.

The officers’ names and badge numbers are redacted in the 61 pages of police reports obtained by the Tribune through a Freedom of Information Act request. But the documents included information that showed that two of the officers involved in the shooting in the South Shore neighborhood have three years of experience with the Police Department, and one of the officers joined the force two years ago.

According to a Tactical Response Report, filled out by police whenever they use force against a suspect, the officer who fired the fatal shots said that O’Neal “intentionally rammed his vehicle into (responding officers’) vehicle while numerous shots were simultaneously heard coming from the direction of the offender’s vehicle.

“During the pursuit offender failed to comply with verbal commands while reaching into his waistband,” the report states. In answering who fired their weapon first, the officer’s statement reads, “Ro (responding officer) perceived shots to be coming from Of (offender).”

But O’Neal had not been armed, and videos show that the bullets coming at some officers may have been coming from other officers as they fired at O’Neal’s fleeing car. The officer who shot O’Neal in the back joined the department in October 2012, according to the report. That officer fired five shots during the July 28 incident, the report shows.

One of the other officers fired nine shots during that incident, and a third officer fired one shot, the reports show.Those two officers were from the first police vehicle to confront the Jaguar and shoot at it, shortly before it slammed into the other police SUV.

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson moved quickly to strip the three of their powers, citing potential policy violations. One report released Friday shows that a supervisor marked a box indicating the shooting was not within policy about 6:30 a.m. July 29, within 12 hours of the incident.

On Aug. 5, the Independent Police Review Authority released nine video clips from police dashboard and body cameras that showed apparent procedural errors by the three officers who opened fire at O’Neal as he fled in a reportedly stolen 2002 Jaguar convertible and then on foot near East 74th Street and South Merrill Avenue.

O’Neal’s shooting marks an early test of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s pledge to reform policing and oversight, and transparency has been central to his announcements about his plans. While the city moved quickly to publicly release the videos and pull the officers off the streets, the videos document apparent tactical errors of the kind that have long troubled the department.

The videos show the chaos that ensued after O’Neal, driving a car reportedly stolen from Bolingbrook, clipped a police SUV and parked car in the South Shore neighborhood. Officers fired several shots at the fleeing sports car before it barreled into a police SUV down the block, the videos show. Other officers appeared to be directly in the line of fire when police shot at the fleeing vehicle.

Departmental policy specifically bans shooting at a car when it is the lone threat to an officer or others.
After O’Neal ran from the Jaguar, police chased him into a backyard, firing about five more shots, the video clips show. O’Neal died of a gunshot wound to the back, authorities said. While the body camera of the officer who fired at O”Neal in the yard was not recording as he fired the shots, it was turned on after the shooting. The cameras nonetheless captured potentially damning comments by at least one of the officers after the shooting. The officer who is believed to have shot O’Neal thought he might have been shooting at him from the moving Jaguar, when in fact his colleagues had been firing on the car. The videos show that officer also said that when he opened fire on O’Neal, “I didn’t know if he was armed or not.”

The department is going to look at changing training for officers and will take into account best practices from around the country, the Bureau of Professional Standards chief, Anne Kirkpatrick, said on Saturday.

*Excerpts taken from originally posted on Chicago Tribune.

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