When Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was finally arrestedon Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder for shooting17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014, PresidentObama’s former top political adviser, David Axelrod, aChicago political operative, wanted to know why it took more than ayear to resolve the case.
But the question touched off a mini-firestorm on Twitter afterobservers noted that Axelrod’s longtime pal and fellow ObamaWhite House crony is the top dog in Chicago and has supportedwithholding police dash cam video showing McDonald’s gruesomekilling.
The response to Axelrod’s tweet was swift, with manyTwitter users pointing out to “Axe” that if he wantedan answer to the question he should talk to Emanuel, who is in hissecond term as mayor of the Windy City. (RELATED: Video Of Chicago Officer Shooting Black TeenReleased)
Axelrod and Emanuel go way back. Besides working together in theObama White House — Axelrod was Obama’s chiefstrategist; Emanuel was chief of staff — the longtimepolitical operative served as chief adviser for Emanuel in 2006when he chaired the Democratic Congressional CampaignCommittee.
And Axelrod also publicly supported Emanuel during a toughre-election campaign that saw him prevail in a runoff in Aprilagainst Chuy Garcia, a progressive Democrat.
As many of Axelrod’s interlocutors pointed out on Tuesday,had video of McDonald’s shooting been released before thatelection, Emanuel may very well have lost that race.
And one of those making that argument forcefully was John Kass,a columnist at the Chicago Tribune.
Kass also penned a column slamming Emanuel for failing to holdhimself accountable for his police department’s actions, bothin the shooting and in blocking the release of the video.
“The mayor of Chicago talked a lot about accountabilityjust before he released the police video showing LaquanMcDonaldÂ gunned down by a cop,” Kass wrote.
“But what of the mayor’s accountability? He sat onthe video for months. If voters had seen it, he wouldn’t havebeen re-elected. So it all worked out for him.”
Kass notes that after the Oct. 20, 2014 incident, Emanuel andCity Hall paid $5 million in taxpayer money to settle the case withMcDonald’s family even before a lawsuit was filed.
“And then the Emanuel administration wasted a boatload ofcash on legal fees and other legal work, trying for months andmonths to keep Chicago from seeing that video the mayor saidhe’d never seen,” Kass writes.
“Rahm sat on the video, and kept sitting on it, all theway through his re-election, as black ministers and otherAfrican-American political figures rallied to his side to get outthe black vote and deny that vote to Jesus ‘Chuy’Garcia,” the columnist continued.
“If the video had come out during the election campaign,Rahm Emanuel would not be mayor today.”
It was not until that settlement was reached in April thatrumors began to swirl about a disturbing video showing Van Dyke,who is white, emptying his clip into McDonald.
Kass also faults the Chicago City Council’s Black Caucus,which voted in support of the $5 million settlement.
“But if they’d demanded that the video be shown— before the election — Rahm would have cut them off attheir knees.
Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in to prosecutors and was chargedwith first-degree murder just hours before the video was releasedto the public on Tuesday.
The footage, which Emanuel maintained during a press conferenceon Tuesday that he still had not seen, shows Van Dyke standing nearhis police SUV as McDonald, who was high on PCP and carrying aknife, walking in the middle of Chicago street.
Van Dyke then opens fire on McDonald, who is seen spinningaround and then falling onto the street as bullets hit his body.Though McDonald was clearly incapacitated, Van Dyke continuedshooting, and smoke can be seen rising up from the teenager’slifeless body.
After emptying his 15-round clip and a bullet in the chamber,Van Dyke reportedly attempted to reload his gun before a fellowofficer stopped him.
“There will be a judgment and he’ll be heldaccountable for his actions,” Emanuel said duringTuesday’s press conference. “There’s also ajudgment for all of us. At one level it’s about himindividually, but we as a city must also do certainthings.”
As recently as two weeks ago, Emanuel said that he opposed releasing thevideo of the shooting because it would be inappropriate duringa pending investigation. A Cook County judge forced the release ofthe video when he ruled last week that the city had failed to provethat releasing the footage would jeopardize its investigation.