Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie Johnson addressed his involvement with the Laquan McDonald case Saturday morning after facing some criticism since officials released the footage to the public.
More than 6,500 pages of a long-secret Inspector General’s report on the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald were released Wednesday, which sparked some controversy with regard to Johnson’s association with the incident and thus prompting a joint CPD press conference with the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus around 8 a.m. Saturday.
“In my particular case, I saw the video close to two weeks after the incident and I was not in the initial, larger, after-action meeting,” Johnson said.
Dashcam video showing the shooting sparked massive protests and calls for justice throughout the Chicago area.
Eddie Johnson reiterated that at that time when the case was just unfolding, he was a senior member of the department but “was not involved in any superintendent-level decisions on discipline following uses of force,” nor was he in a position to receive investigative updates.
Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery last October in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot by Van Dyke 16 times in 2014. The officer was sentenced earlier this year to 81 months in prison.
“So generally, my role, and the role of current deputy chiefs at these preliminary reviews, was to assist in the facilitation of any training or equipment audits mandated by the superintendent for officers and supervisors that were under my particular command,” he continued.
“So to be clear, I never thought and I never said the shooting of Laquan McDonald was justified.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a statement shortly after the press conference saying:
"I have full faith and confidence in Eddie Johnson as the leader of the Chicago Police Department. Over the years, I have spoken at length with Superintendent Johnson about the shooting of Laquan McDonald, the police response that night and the days after. Based on these discussions and my knowledge from other sources, there is nothing that gives me pause about the Superintendent's conduct related to that tragic event.
To the contrary, from a beat officer to leading the Chicago Police Department, Superintendent Johnson has been a champion for real, lasting police reform in Chicago over the past 31 years — and remains so to this day. Under his leadership, the Chicago Police Department has taken critical steps forward to improve transparency, drive changes set forward in the consent decree, and, most importantly, ensure police accountability department-wide while rebuilding the trust between the police and the community they serve. I stand fully behind the Superintendent as we work toward our shared goal of building safer and stronger neighborhoods across the city."
Johnson said none of the information brought up Saturday was new, as he had previously mentioned he had watched the video three years ago—reinforcing that what the case ultimately showed was unity and the momentum now should be focused on ensuring officials keep the city safe.
“What I will say today, is that the incident was clearly a tragedy, it was devastating for the McDonald family, it was devastating for the Chicago Police Department, and it was devastating for the city of Chicago,” he said. “It showed me the outcomes of not investing in our police department and officers’ safety and professional development and in accountability.”
In Supt. Eddie Johnson’s closing remarks, he urged Chicagoans to take a better and broader overview of CPD as a whole.
“I ask each of you, not to judge this department by what is said, but what we’ve done and what you’ve seen over the last four years to make Chicago safer and create an accountable, open and transparent police department that our city and country can be proud of,” he said.