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Meet the man who uncovered Chicago Police Department’s attempt to conceal the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing


photo: A.R. Shaw for Steed Media

If it were up to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department, the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing would likely have never been viewed by the public.

Police obtained the dash-cam video on the night of McDonald’s fatal shooting, which took place on Oct. 14, 2014; however, the Chicago Police Department and Mayor Emanuel attempted to prevent the video from reaching the public by claiming that it would harm the investigation.

Enter journalist Brandon Smith. Along with activist William Calloway, Smith helped lead the charge against the CPD’s effort to keep the video concealed. The video was eventually released due to the Freedom of Information Act.

Smith recently spoke with rolling out to reveal how the events surrounding McDonald’s killing transpired.

How did the initial quest to get the video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting begin?
William Calloway works with families of victims of police violence. So, his effort was to find what happened in the Laquan McDonald case. He said there was a pending investigation against the officer who shot Laquan. William came to me and basically said, “You’ve done this before. Help me get this information.”

What should the average citizen know about filling a claim with the Freedom of Information Act if they are in a similar situation?
One of the big takeaways here is that to file a FOIA request is very easy. It’s a matter of Googling the name of the agency you want. You can get an email address through which you can send your request. They typically have five to 10 business days to respond. The second takeaway is that in Illinois, attorneys can ask for their fees from the government if they win a FOIA case. Technically, if they win that means the government is wrong.

How will the release of the video provoke a larger discussion?
This case has become so much more that it has blossomed into this national discussion. The conversations it’s forced is that we’re all kind of feeling disenfranchised, feeling like we don’t have a say. We do not have a say in how cases are handled and we can’t even ask them [how it is being handled]. This [case] is really saying to people we can ask them what’s going.

How has race factored into the discussion?
You don’t have to leave it up to opinion whether this is a race issue. On average, the police would shoot one person a week and they’ve done that for the past 29 years. If you realize how big of a problem it is, to me it’s an even bigger problem. It demonstrates that certain communities are policed more violently. One third of Chicago’s population is Black. I’m trying to tell people this is what’s happening here. This is not just a political issue.

What is it about Chicago politics that says it’s OK for police to shoot and kill innocent Blacks without repercussion? 
Part of it is that Chicago has a history of checks and balances that are for show. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this task force on police accountability. They’re charged with policing the police and investigating violence, misconduct, and recommending changes. But they’ve largely failed at that job. Less than about a third of a percent have been held accountable since the task force was created. The hardest thing is for the fraternal order of the police to police their misconduct. I don’t want to union bash, but this union, in particular, they protect police at all costs.

How can the city of Chicago restore trust?
My thought is that if the city really wanted to restore trust, it would come after resolving this police shooting and others. There were eight other officers there that night. My lawyer and I are trying to raise awareness that the city has lots of other records. The most radical reform would be to publicly solve them, but they’re not. There are other cars; the audio from all the videos is missing: internal communication, what they were saying. They are technically arguing it would harm the investigation if they release all this stuff. The reason that’s flawed is we asked them in court to demonstrate why it would harm their investigation to release this video. They provided no evidence. The judge asked them in open court, them being the city’s lawyer, are you going to submit any information that would harm your investigation and he said, “No, your honor.” They claim in public it would harm their investigation, but when a judge is asking for proof of that, they’re saying, “No, it won’t.”

Interview: Dr. Natalie King, Words: A.R. Shaw


  1. Nigg.Newton on December 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    As a Jewish, Black man, I can understand the nuances of the Blue Cover UP. I am glad my Jewish Brethren was able to help.

    • Missgee62 on December 10, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      dumbazz no one asked you! Takeyour bama azz back to with the trolls!

  2. Edisha on December 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Freedom of Information Act #FOIA #WilliamCalloway talks methods for raising awareness, never knew about this til now.

  3. cupcake333 on December 6, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    restore trust? haaaa what a joke . simple fire the MAYOR TOO .. he knew bout the cover up he gotta go .. make this police who shot this kid 15 x accountable and make him an example to the rest, the kkk and arian nation is recruiting these cops way before the military does , its a system that must be torn down ., cops have no mercy because these killings are sacraficiial they know they will get off ,or slap on the hand and some money on GOFUNDME.COM .. money he bailed out with the kkk is spending money on their own . you dont see no black cops shooting no one running ??? thats proof its the system set up this way by the kkk and some members are judges like zimmermn daddy was we gotta becareful who we aaccuse

  4. cupcake333 on December 6, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    how did these rules polce use get to be the law, if we got a right to bare arms why do cop shot blcks if that person ws running with a oozy does he not have the rightss to bare arm? so why shoot if he ws white you would check to seee if he is within his right? to have a weapon

  5. guest on December 7, 2015 at 9:38 am

    This is a brave man, wish there were more journalist like him! I imagine he will be on every law enforcement agency in this country’s radar for the rest of his life.

    • Missgee62 on December 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      im sure he will have protection.

  6. faketony on December 8, 2015 at 1:21 am

    Let’s check everyone observational skills:

    –Did Laquan spin or not spin at the incident?
    –If you believe Laquan spun… clockwise or counterclockwise?
    –Is the distance between the police and Laquan increasing or decreasing?
    –After being shot and on the ground… Did Laquan reach for something or not reach for something?

    • Tavares Jones on December 8, 2015 at 10:04 am

      Idiot, did you see the video? He was shot several times before he hit the ground and never got a chance to reach for something. This was an execution by an officer who hates black people

      • faketony on December 9, 2015 at 10:55 am

        Watch it over and over again till you understand what is happening in the video not what BLM tells you is happening in the video.

        Let me give you an easy one… Did the police officer kick something away from Laquan or never approached Laquan?

        • Tavares Jones on December 11, 2015 at 11:45 am

          @faketony:disqus They kicked a knife away from a teen who was walking away from them when he was shot. The proof is in the video! You can’t get around the fact that this racist police would have never shot a white teenager 16 times. In fact white teenager killers like dylan roof are treated to fast food by police after shooting up black churches. This is insane!

  7. Chi-Town Richy on December 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Let’s hope those mob police officers don’t go after him

  8. Missgee62 on December 10, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    GOD bLESS THIS GUY! AND MR. WILLIAM CALLLOWAY! If it wasnt for them being persistent Laquan’s death would have been in vain!