Crusader Staff Report
The fatal police shooting of a Black man in South Shore during the weekend set off a new wave of anger in the Black community, where a string of protests have renewed calls for police reform and criticisms of Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson by Black leaders.
The shooting is the latest incident adding fuel to longstanding frustrations with Chicago police, and with the Laquan McDonald trial scheduled for September 5, Black leaders are bracing for several intense weeks in the Black community.
With the future of his political career in doubt, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, fresh from his trip to Asia, made appeals for calm in the Black community days after police fatally shot 37-year-old Harith Augustus on Saturday, July 14 in the 2000 block of 71st street. Police stopped Augustus, who friends describe as a “quiet barber” after he looked like a person who exhibited “characteristics of an armed person.” According to body cam video released by police, Augustus pulled out his firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card, when another officer came from behind and tried to grab him. The video shows Augustus fleeing before he was shot several times in the middle of the street. He died at nearby Jackson Park Hospital hours later.
Although Augustus had a firearm owner’s identification card, Johnson at a press conference Tuesday, July 17 said the department has yet to find his concealed gun license permit.
There is a difference between having a FOID card and having a concealed weapon permit. The FOID card allows a person to own a weapon; the concealed weapon permit says a person is eligible to conceal a weapon in public. The question at this time is whether police officers asked Augustus for his concealed weapon permit or gave him a chance to show it rather than trying to grab him. But without any audio on the body cam video, citizens will never know.
The body cam video released by police shows that Augustus had a gun in a holster under his shirt, but the footage did not contain audio, fueling criticism of a department that has often been accused of lacking transparency in police-involved shootings.
Johnson said there was no audio on two video recordings of the shooting but did not explain why.
With unanswered questions, a diverse group of 200 protestors demonstrated at the Jeffrey Plaza, demanding justice and police reforms. They then marched along 71st street and headed east to Alderman Leslie Hairston’s (5th Ward) office at 2325 E. 71 Street where one speaker called out the political leader and accused her of doing nothing to promote economic development and better community relations in her ward.
Marchers blamed the police for escalating a fatal shooting that they say could have been avoided.
“He was showing his gun card. They escalated things by grabbing on him. He didn’t understand what was happening,” said Glenda Broden, who lives in South Shore. “He was scared. All of a sudden they gang up on you. And your first instinct is to stand and fight or run. With people you don’t do that. You keep things calm as much as possible.”
“I don’t think the shooting was justified. They could have tasered the guy,” said Darryl M. of South Shore. “They didn’t have to go lethal. It seems like they always wanted to go lethal and have no consideration for human life. It didn’t have to come to this.”
Johnson defended the shooting, but Emanuel declined to say whether the officers acted appropriately. Emanuel said he would wait for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) to complete its investigation.
“I don’t think at this point while they’re doing that, my energy’s going to be on trying to characterize something, so much as helping all of us learn from this and learn for the future,” Emanuel said from police headquarters at 35th and Michigan.
The shooting occurred two weeks after Officer Robert Rialmo walked away from a wrongful death lawsuit unscathed. And despite the COPA recommendation that Rialmo be fired, Johnson stood behind him, saying he was defending his life when he killed 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones in 2016.
“It is disgusting and so deceitful for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Eddie Johnson to be consciously misleading the citizens of Chicago as it relates to the fatal police shooting of 37-year-old Harith Augustus,” said Pastor Ira Acree of Greater St. John Baptist Church. “Johnson has repeatedly said to the media, that the verdict of whether it’s a justified shooting is totally in the hands of COPA. Everyone, especially the superintendent, knows that is simply not true.”