“I never talked to the officer, period,” Camden told the Post. “It was told to me after it was told to somebody else who was told by another person, and this was two hours after the incident . . . hearsay is basically what I’m putting out at that point.”
Likewise, then-police chief McCarthy walked back his comments on the shooting, telling NBC Chicago that the initial press release was wrong. He took responsibility for the error— “I guess that’s my fault,” he said—even though the first media comments had come from Camden.
Indeed, the roughly 3,000 pages of e-mails subsequently released from the mayor’s office show a battle to separate the public image of the police department from that of the FOP.
An exchange between John Holden, public affairs director for the city’s Law Department, and Shannon Braymaier, deputy director of communications for the mayor’s office, regarding the wording in an NBC 5 story about the e-mail release, notes that the station’s reference to “the Chicago Police Department’s story” about what happened the night McDonald was killed was, in fact, the FOP’s story.
“They amended the online story which clarifies the subject line issue, but leaves in the reference to the Chicago Police Department’s story. I have told Don [Moseley, the well-respected NBC producer] twice that it was not the ‘Chicago Police Department’s story’ but rather the FOP’s. I will continue to monitor,” Holden wrote.
“This mistake is the crux of their entire story,” Breymaier replied. “This is a completely unnecessary self-inflicted wound that should and could have been easily avoided.”
The e-mails also include a letter from McDonald’s lawyer, Jeffrey Neslund, spelling out how the city was culpable in letting Camden spread false information. “There must . . . be accountability for the City and the Department’s role in allowing false information to be disseminated to the media via the FOP in an attempt to win public approval and falsely characterize the fatal shooting as ‘justified,’ ” Neslund wrote in an e-mail dated March 6, 2015. “Here, within an hour of the shooting, the FOP spokesman gave a statement to the press describing the circumstances surrounding the shooting which contained misrepresentations, misleading information and outright falsehoods.”
Downing, the former LAPD deputy chief, also places blame on the CPD and the city for allowing Camden to disseminate false information from a crime scene. “I’d throw his ass in jail in a minute,” he said. “That’s gotta be the best definition of interfering with an investigation. He’s standing up there representing an official body; the public is listening to him represent the police organization, even though it’s the union. The police department and the city administration should be objecting to that; if they’re not, then they’re complicit.”
Since the Laquan McDonald shooting, Camden has been noticeably silent; just one of nine police shootings since then—that of Martice Milliner, who was fatally shot in Chatham—featured comments from the FOP rep. An eyewitness interviewed by the Tribune disputed the circumstances of Milliner’s killing as laid out by Camden.
Camden attributes his new low profile to the FOP. “I don’t respond to shootings anymore unless the union specifically calls me,” he says. “It’s just the administration policy at this point in time.” Dean Angelo, the current Lodge 7 president, told the Tribune in November that the decision was made months after the McDonald shooting and was unrelated. But after a recent panel on police transparency, Angelo told City Bureau and the Reader that allegations of Camden making false statements at the scene of police shootings were “concerning,” and suggested that Camden should have never given such statements in the first place.
“That’s why you don’t see Pat Camden out anymore,” he said. “I’m the spokesman for the union now. The department makes the statements on the scene now, as it should have always been.” He confirmed that Camden is still employed by the union as a media liaison.
Media commentary, meanwhile, has largely turned against the entire policing structure in Chicago, taking the mayor’s office, CPD, IPRA, and the FOP to task. A November 27, 2015, editorial by the Tribune, which endorsed Rahm Emanuel in both 2011 and 2015, led with “the more we learn the worse it gets.” The Sun-Times, which also endorsed Emanuel both times, called for McCarthy’s resignation.
The mayor has responded with a flurry of new measures: extending the pilot body-camera program, creating a task force to review police misconduct, outfitting more officers with Tasers, and appointing a new IPRA chief to overhaul the agency.
CPD is responding too, in part by changing how police deal with the media. The department is developing a formal policy on the distribution of information after a police shooting, says CPD rep Guglielmi.
The policy will be based on others around the country, Guglielmi says, but he declined to give any additional information.
And on December 16, almost three years to the day of Moore’s death, the U.S. Department of Justice began a probe into CPD. The civil “pattern or practice” investigation will look into whether the Laquan McDonald case was a paradigm of misconduct and civil rights violations.
The probe could result in a federal consent decree, which would give the DOJ temporary oversight of the police department. Changes mandated by the consent decree could even come head-to-head with aspects of the city’s union contract, as has happened in Seattle and Cleveland, both of which have police departments under federal oversight.
- The dashcam video from Ruth Castelli’s police vehicle reveals the moment when the officer, shown here with her face blurred, pulled her gun on Jamaal Moore.
- NBC 5
Camden and McCarthy’s initial story about the morning Ruth Castelli fatally shot Jamaal Moore—the gun, the robbery, the part where Hackett was thrown around “like a rag doll” by a person who had just been run over by an SUV—fell apart.
The most definitive story of what happened the morning Moore was killed comes from the video footage obtained from Castelli’s car and security-camera footage taken from the gas station at Garfield and Ashland. The images are made blurry around the edges by the rain, and the ground shines as the last minutes of Moore’s life play out.
In the gas station footage, Moore’s silver SUV skids across the wet pavement, begins to spin around, and strikes a lamppost, which falls and crashes on top of the car. Four people jump out of the back, running across the gas station parking lot. Moore, struggling to join them, is then hit by the police SUV, with Hackett behind the wheel.
Dashcam footage shows Moore crawling out from underneath the police vehicle. Hackett then climbs on top of him, attempting to put him in handcuffs. He then appears to fall forward over Moore, later testifying that he “got too high on [Moore’s] shoulders.” Moore breaks free, and begins to get up and run away.
McCarthy’s claim that Moore had charged at Castelli was untrue—surveillance footage shows him standing up briefly only to turn and fall to the ground.
Castelli claims that she saw a “black object” in Moore’s hand and shouted, “Gun! Gun!” But the dashcam corroborates neither of those things; the shot is not clear enough, and there is no audio. (Eighty percent of CPD’s dash cams don’t have functioning audio, Gugliemi told DNAinfo in December, and 22 officers were disciplined last month for interfering with the recording devices.)
But we now know that the only guns the night Moore was shot belonged to Castelli and her partner.
A black flashlight was found at the scene, but whether Moore was actually holding it at the time Castelli shot him is in dispute. Castelli testified that he was holding it; in official depositions, two witnesses said he was not.
Camden stressed to the Tribune that even though no gun had been recovered from the scene, the earlier truck robbery had involved one—as if to further implicate Moore in a crime with which he was never charged. Police documents show that Moore was not charged for the alleged truck robbery. Instead, he was posthumously charged with aggravated assault of an officer with a handgun—a charge that was later changed to aggravated battery of an officer with his hands after it was determined that Moore was unarmed.
Cook County medical examiner records show that Moore, who died at the scene, was shot twice, in the back and the side of his pelvis.
Moore’s mother, Gwendolyn, sued the city in federal court, alleging, among other things, that police officers at the scene had referred to her son as “just another dead nigger.” City lawyers settled for $1.25 million without legally admitting any guilt. In a memorandum opinion, federal judge James Holderman wrote that the dashcam video “undercuts [the police and FOP] version of events.”
But Moore’s mother says that apologies and settlement money, whatever the amount, will never undo the damage done by Castelli, McCarthy, and Camden. At the time of his death, Moore had been engaged. The money from the settlement will go to Moore’s young son, she said, but it won’t change the fact that he’ll grow up without a father. Moore is gone, his mother said, and his name has been dragged through
“Not only did I just lose my son under false pretense, you have [the public] thinking he is that kind of kid,” she said. “It’s lies about him, but that is the story people start believing.” v
This report was produced in partnership with City Bureau, a Chicago-based journalism lab. Additional reporting and editing by Darryl Holliday.