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Local Leaders React To Chicago Officer Shooting

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Hundreds of protesters marched along Chicago's Michigan Avenue yesterday to call for justice days after the release of a video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black, 16 times.

The shooting took place in October of 2014. And while the city gave a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family, the video was not released until this week and only by court order. Officer Van Dyke continued to work at a desk job until he was charged this week. We turn now to Carol Marin, political editor at NBC 5 and WTTW TV in Chicago and a columnist at the Sun-Times. Carol, thanks so much for being with us.

CAROL MARIN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: Mayor Emanuel, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, the police superintendent, President Obama's Justice Department - they've all been denounced for dragging their feet with the case. How do officials explain it took more than a year for the video to be released?

MARIN: They explain it by saying there was an ongoing investigation. It's an argument that a judge in Cook County last week rejected and rejected soundly, saying the Chicago Police Department stopped investigating a long time ago, that while the feds and the state's attorney were in the process, there was no reason that that video should not have been released.

SIMON: You have tough words for President Obama in your Sun-Times column that's been posted now. Let me quote you, "The president doesn't hurry, not even when his city is bleeding."

MARIN: Those tough words are a function of - he's at the top of the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice - the feds seldom, if ever, hurry. And this - if they did engage in this - would be a civil rights case. While - when Laquan McDonald was shot and lay bleeding on the pavement after 16 bullets entered his body, the fact of the matter was that Ferguson, Mo., had already jumped off. We were in the midst of other police situations in other major urban areas involving black youth and largely white officers. And so there was a real feeling of a cauldron boiling, and something - needed more largely than was being done to address it.

SIMON: In Chicago, are there political implications here?

MARIN: There are certainly political implications. When Laquan McDonald was shot, Rahm Emanuel was entering a tougher than normal mayoral re-election cycle. This would not have done well for him, so the city kept it quiet. But worse than that, Scott, worse than that is that the city and the union did not tell the truth about what happened. They both said hours after...

SIMON: The policeman's union...

MARIN: Yeah, policeman's union - patrolmen's - that this young man lunged at police. The video contradicts that utterly. The fact is that the police department, according to the lawyers for Laquan McDonald, shooed witnesses away or berated them for saying that they saw an execution when the police allegedly said they did not. And so nobody really knew about this case, save a couple of freelance, excellent journalists, until April, when after he's re-elected, the mayor's corporation counsel - his lawyer goes to city council and says we need to settle 5 million on this case. And they hadn't even sued.

SIMON: And last 30 seconds we have left - State's Attorney Alvarez is up for re-election in the fall. She has an African-American opponent. What are the implications?

MARIN: The same - that there is a real feeling of disconnect between the poorer communities of Chicago in the west and south sides and law enforcement. And while there are excellent police officers and excellent prosecutors, there are also those who, in the view of the community, have taken too long on this and many previous cases.

SIMON: Chicago's Carol Marin, thanks so much.

MARIN: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.