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Body Camera of Chicago Officer Who Fatally Shot Unarmed Black Teen ‘Wasn’t Working’ at Time of Incident, Police Say

Paul O’Neal graduation picture from Chicago Excel Academy. Photo by Heavy.com/Zhivago Short.

Paul O’Neal’s graduation picture from Chicago Excel Academy. Photo by Heavy.com/Zhivago Short.

The body cam of a Chicago cop failed to record, and now the family of a slain 18-year-old man says the entire incident reeks of a strategic cover-up.

Recent high school graduate Paul O’Neal was fatally shot by police last week after he was suspected of stealing a car. An attorney for the O’Neal family announced Monday that it had filed a federal lawsuit against the officers responsible for their loved one’s death, CBS News reports.

The wrongful death suit accuses officers of effectively “executing” the Black teen, alleging excessive force and battery.

“Paul O’Neal’s constitutional rights were violated,” attorney Michael Oppenheimer told reporters during a press conference near where O’Neal was shot. “These police officers decided, for whatever reason, they were going to play judge, jury and executioner.”

Ja’Mal Green, a spokesman for the O’Neal family, asserted that Paul was a good kid but ran into trouble from time to time.

“He lacked a father in his life, he lacked mentors and the resources he needed,” Green said. “And so he got caught up in a few things with his friends, but he was not a bad kid.”

The lawsuit was filed shortly after authorities revealed that the body camera of the officer who ultimately killed O’Neal wasn’t working at the time of the incident.

According to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the department is currently investigating why the cop’s body camera wasn’t recording at such a critical moment. He said the three officers involved in O’Neal’s fatal shooting had just recently begun using the cameras.

The Chicago Tribune reports that an unarmed O’Neal was shot around 7:30 p.m. Thursday after reportedly crashing a stolen car into two police cruisers and fleeing the scene. Police sources said two responding officers fired shots at the teen while he was still inside the vehicle; that footage was captured by a police dashboard camera.

After O’Neal ran from the vehicle, a third officer chased him on foot and fired the shot that would ultimately kill him. The teen died from a gunshot wound to the back — but this portion of the incident wasn’t caught on tape as the officer’s body camera wasn’t working properly. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has since ruled O’Neal’s death a homicide.

While the officer’s body cam malfunction is questionable, a preliminary investigation of the matter has given authorities no reason to believe the officer purposely disabled the camera, a police source said. Instead, investigators believe that the crash or the officer’s inexperience with using the camera played a part in its failure to record.

According to CBS News, Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has since stripped the three unnamed officers of their police powers, pending investigations. Johnson said the officers violated department policy but didn’t go into detail. The officers are currently on paid administrative leave.

The investigation into O’Neal’s death could take months, the Chicago Tribune reports, but it’s hoped that the dashcam video of the shooting will be released to the public much sooner.

“The superintendent said today he is pushing for the video to be released as soon as the investigation comes to a point where it will not hamper the case,” Guglielmi said Monday. “… We would defer to IPRA [Independent Police Review Authority]. Ever since this incident happened … (Johnson) wanted it to be extremely fact-based, and he wants it to be open. … The department has nothing to hide or conceal.”

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