Video Screenshots Showing Chicago Police Officers Allegedly Deleting Laquan McDonald Shooting Footage Emerge

Two grainy screenshots have emerged for the first time that appear to show police officers sitting at a computer inside a Burger King, reviewing security footage files on the night 17-year-old African American Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke.

The images emerge as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said on Tuesday that, in a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, she has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and investigate whether the Chicago PD’s actions in relation to the shooting case have violated federal and constitutional law.

The screenshots, obtained by NBC Chicago (NBC 5), appear to show at least one police officer sitting at a computer in the office of a Burger King. Although the grainy images do not show exactly what the officers were doing, Jay Darshane, district manager for the Burger King at Pulaski Road and 40th Street, claims that police officers came to the Burger King with IT specialists after the shooting and worked on the computer for about three hours.

Darshane believes the officers deleted footage relating to the shooting of 17-year-old African American Laquan McDonald from the servers.

Explaining how the officers were caught on camera apparently tampering with Burger King’s surveillance footage files, Chicago attorney Craig Futterman, who told NPR he has seen the footage, said, “We interviewed people from Burger King that was located kitty-corner to where this happened — and the Burger King cameras had seven different video files. The officer went into the Burger King, and he erased all seven of those files. The irony is, though, that the Burger King surveillance video was running while the officer erased them. And so there’s a videotape of the officer erasing the video.”

Protesters At McDonald Chicago Memorial [Image via VOA/Public Domain]

About an hour and a half of surveillance footage covering the time that McDonald was shot and killed is missing from the servers of the Chicago Burger King located less than a hundred yards away from the scene of the murder. NBC Chicago reported Darshane said Burger King’s surveillance cameras were working properly on the night of the shooting and at the time that several police officers came — soon after the shooting on October 20, 2014 — and demanded access to the surveillance files.

Darshane said he discovered a few hours after the officers left that about 86 minutes of footage — 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m. — was missing. Although it is unlikely the surveillance footage captured the shooting, he believes that two cameras captured footage containing vital evidence relating to events before and after the shooting, including details of McDonald’s behavior and moments before police officer Van Dyke shot and killed him.”

“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files. I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”

Van Dyke reportedly fired the first of 16 shots at about 9:57 p.m., and most of the shots were fired after the teenager had fallen to the ground.

Testifying before a federal grand jury in May, Darshane said he believed the officers deleted relevant footage. But Chicago Police Department officials contested the claim, saying that forensic tests have failed to yield evidence that surveillance footage files were tampered with.

Police Superintendent McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claimed that the missing footage was likely due to technical difficulties with the video equipment. According to McCarthy, allegations that officers had tampered with the surveillance footage files were “absolutely untrue.”

He said, “In no way, shape or form is there any evidence that anything was tampered with.”

Speaking with reporters, Alvarez said, “We have looked at those videos and… it doesn’t appear that it’s been tampered with.”

The latest developments come after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the dismissal of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy following protests against his handling of the McDonald murder case. Although he praised McCarthy for his leadership since 2011, he said there was a need for change because public trust in the police has been eroded by the recent incidents.

“Now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership. Any case of excessive force or abuse of authority undermines the entire force and the trust we must build with every community in the city,” Emanuel said.

Meanwhile, a 15-second clip has emerged on social media showing a police officer accusing Mayor Rahm Emanuel of colluding in the cover-up of McDonald’s murder. The clip, which first appeared on Instagram account @xaneetta, was later uploaded to the Twitter account of radio host Yesenia Alvarez, according to the Daily Mail.

The officer alleged that Emanuel “paid the family (Laquan McDonald’s) to shut them up.”

Commenting on her decision to ask for a federal civil rights investigation, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “The shocking death of Laquan McDonald is the latest tragedy in our city that highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse. Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken. Chicago cannot move ahead and rebuild trust between the police and the community without an outside, independent investigation into its police department to improve policing practices.”

“The children in all of Chicago’s communities deserve to grow up in a city in which they are protected and served by the police,” she added.

[Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP]