CHICAGO — Videos from the fatal shooting of Paul O’Neal by Chicago police show a succession of apparent procedural errors, including police firing at a fleeing vehicle with other officers in harm’s way and an admission by the officer who believed he fired the fatal shot that he had no idea whether the 18-year-old was armed.

Comments from that officer caught on video indicate he may have erroneously thought O’Neal had fired from a stolen car barreling in his direction. In fact, those shots were fired in the officer’s direction by other police shooting at the stolen car in apparent violation of departmental policy.

Acting with uncharacteristic swiftness, Chicago officials on Friday made public nine videos in all. Shortly before the 11 a.m. release, the head of the Chicago police oversight agency called the video footage “shocking and disturbing” and said her heart went out to the O’Neal’s family.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, O’Neal’s sister, Briana Adams, 22, grew emotional as she told reporters that the family was devastated by what they saw on the videos.

“I want everyone to know that Paul had goals,” she said, then lowered her head and began to cry.

Her brother had graduated from high school and wanted to go to a trade school and perhaps work for the ComEd electric utility one day, she said.


“We just want answers – the truth,” she said.

Chicago police officers had tried to stop O’Neal about 7:30 p.m. July 28 in the South Shore neighborhood as he drove a Jaguar convertible reported stolen in Bolingbrook, police said. O’Neal struck two Chicago police vehicles while in the car, and two officers fired at him while he was in the car, authorities said. O’Neal fled from the Jaguar, police said, and a third officer chased him behind a home and fatally shot him.

O’Neal, who was unarmed, died of a single gunshot wound to the back, authorities said.

Meanwhile, activists disrupted an afternoon news conference scheduled for outside police headquarters, shouting down Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

“We are dissatisfied! Bridging that gap between African-Americans and Chicago police? Impossible! It is impossible!” shouted activist Lamon Reccord, 17.

“(Mayor) Rahm Emanuel is using you as a scapegoat for the black community!” another activist shouted at Johnson.


Before Johnson retreated into headquarters, he told several reporters he understood the activists’ concerns in light of the videos.

“At the same time we’re trying to do the right thing, to be transparent,” Johnson said as activists continued to shout over him.

The videos show officers firing on the Jaguar as it drove away from them, and their shots appear to place officers farther down the street in danger of being shot.

The videos capture at least 15 shots being fired in about five seconds as the Jaguar passed the officers and drove away.

The video then showed the Jaguar hitting a police SUV, and O’Neal took off running as police pursued him behind some homes, running up driveways and jumping fences. The clips do not show the fatal shooting, which happened in a backyard, but the devices record the sounds of about four more shots.

The fatal shot itself was not captured on video, department officials said, even though the officer who chased and shot O’Neal was wearing a body camera. Department officials have not said why the camera did not record the shooting.


The videos, which contain audio, showed a confusing scene in the shooting’s aftermath. The officer who believed he had fired the fatal shot initially thought shots had been fired at his police car from the speeding Jaguar when it actually came from officers down the street shooting toward the Jaguar.

While the body camera attached to the uniform of that officer did not capture the fatal shot, a video showed that the officer’s body camera was operating after the shooting and was still recording when police processing the scene asked him to walk through the backyard where he fired his gun and help them find the shell casings.

A sergeant asked whether the shots fired at the officer came from the rear of the yard, but the officer told him the shots fired in his direction happened back on the street moments before the stolen car chase ended in a collision.

“No, the shots were coming at us when the car was coming at us,” the officer said before describing how he ended up in the backyard chasing O’Neal on foot.

“I took off this way, he was coming over this way,” he said, indicating different sections of the backyard. “When I approached this, I didn’t know if he was armed or not.”

As seconds passed in the backyard, the officer grew distraught and feared that it would be judged a bad shooting.


“Man, this is so (expletive) up, man. I don’t want nothing to happen to that (expletive) guy, dude,” he said to the sergeant. “The way (expletive’s) going man, I’m going to be (expletive) crucified, bro.”

At that point, the sergeant sought to reassure the officer, citing the car theft as justification for what happened.

“Relax, he was in a hot car. Nothing to worry about.”

The officer asked whether a weapon was recovered from the Jaguar.

“I’m not sure, but just relax,” the sergeant said. “Don’t worry about it. They were in a hot car.”

At another point, the officer claimed O’Neal shot at him during the foot chase.


“Dude, I heard shots. I don’t (expletive) know, man. When he came out the yard, he shot at me,” the officer said.

After O’Neal’s family viewed the videos Friday morning at the offices of the Independent Police Review Authority, which is investigating the shooting, attorney Michael Oppenheimer called the footage “beyond horrific” and said he plans to call for a special prosecutor to look into the shooting of the unarmed teen.

“There is no question in my mind that criminal acts were committed,” said Oppenheimer, a former prosecutor who is representing O’Neal’s family. “What I saw was pretty coldblooded.”

O’Neal’s family is suing the Police Department.

Ja’Mal Green, a spokesman for the O’Neal family who is free on bail after he was charged with felonies alleging he assaulted a police commander at a recent protest over officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, said he was disturbed by one video that showed a few officers appearing to commend each other after the shooting, shaking hands.

“They did everything but high-five each other,” Oppenheimer said.


Oppenheimer accused the officer who fired the fatal shot of intentionally shutting down his body camera so no footage would capture that moment.

Before the release of the videos, Sharon Fairley, IPRA’s chief administrator, said in a statement that the agency is proceeding “as deliberately and expediently as possible in pursuit of a swift but fair determination” into the teen’s shooting. She said she expected to wrap up the probe in several weeks, much sooner than the embattled agency once took.

The footage, “as shocking and disturbing as it is,” Fairley said, “is not the only evidence to be gathered and analyzed when conducting a fair and thorough assessment of (the) conduct of police officers in performing their duties.”

Johnson took quick action after the shooting, stripping three officers who opened fire at O’Neal of their police powers and saying it appeared they had violated departmental policies.

The city’s quick moves after O’Neal’s shooting show how much has changed in the eight months since the release of video of a white police officer shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer who shot McDonald, Jason Van Dyke, is charged with first-degree murder.

The McDonald video – and long-simmering dissatisfaction with police use of force among many African-Americans – led to sustained protests, and the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation to determine whether police had systematically violated residents’ rights. Federally enforced changes could come from that ongoing investigation, and Emanuel has announced or enacted a raft of reforms to policing and officer oversight.

Johnson broke with tradition by saying police appeared to have violated departmental policy in the O’Neal case. The superintendent, who was appointed by Emanuel amid the political crisis sparked by the McDonald video, issued an unusual department-wide memo saying that the information he had on the shooting “left (him) with more questions than answers.”

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