Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been dogged by questions surrounding the February 2019 raid of Anjanette Young’s home for the past two weeks.
The questions followed a broadcast by CBS 2, a local TV station, that aired disturbing bodycam footage showing several male officers rushing into the woman’s living room and searching her residence, all while she was naked.
Despite Lightfoot’s initial claims that she wasn’t aware of the raid until earlier this month, email records show the mayor’s staff informed her about a “pretty bad wrongful raid” in November 2019, one day before a local TV station broke news about the police department’s blunder.
Not only was Young nude during the raid, she was not the suspect police were trying to capture.
The investigators who stormed into Young’s home, using a battering ram to break down her front door, were fed bad information from a confidential informant that they failed to independently verify before raiding the wrong West Loop apartment.
To make matters worse, attorneys representing the city of Chicago sought to keep the video under wraps. The city’s legal team filed an emergency motion in federal court just hours before CBS 2 televised the footage, seeking an injunction to keep the video from airing on TV screens. A judge denied that motion.
Now the spotlight has turned on Lightfoot, with a national focus on what she knew about the botched raid and when.
On Wednesday, Dec, 30, the mayor released several November 2019 emails from top-ranking city officials preparing for news of the fiasco to come out in the days leading up to CBS’ first airing of the story. The correspondence provided a glimpse into the internal machinations of Lightfoot’s administration, although it was not an “exhaustive or comprehensive” release of all city emails surrounding the situation, the city indicated.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Lightfoot has said she didn’t recollect the November emails until recently.
In a statement from the mayor’s office, she claimed that while she was notified of the raid on Young’s home more than a year ago, staff did not inform her that Young’s Freedom of Information Act request to obtain police bodycam footage from the raid had subsequently been denied.
She was provided with information that an all-male convoy of Chicago police officers swarmed Young’s apartment while she was changing clothes and left her standing handcuffed and naked for 45 minutes. The email provided to Mayor Lightfoot indicated Young wasn’t allowed to cover herself until a female officer arrived to the scene to uncuff her and turn off her bodycam while Young changed clothes.
Lightfoot expressed outrage during a Dec. 21 press conference, calling the raid “outrageous” as she spoke to reporters.
“Bearing witness to what Ms. Young experienced was and continues to be traumatic and disturbing,” she said. “It has shaken and unnerved me. And I know from the many, many conversations I’ve had since that video came to light last week, people — and particularly Black people not just here in Chicago, but really across the country — feel angry and feel violated.”
Yet, in a statement issued by the mayor’s office Wednesday, Lightfoot continued to distance herself, noting that the raid took place three months before she took the helm.
Police handcuffed Young, pointed guns at the woman, ransacked her home and badgered her during an ordeal that lasted more than 20 minutes. It took several minutes before officers even thought to drape a blanket over her naked body.
A distraught Young was heard on the video pleading for answers that she never received. She told policemen at least 43 times that they were in the wrong house, but her anguished pleas fell on deaf ears.
“This is f–king ridiculous,” she screamed. “You’ve got me in handcuffs, I’m naked, you kicked my house in. And I keep telling you you’ve got the wrong place.”
Lightfoot’s administration pushed to accelerate policy reforms to the city’s search warrant process in the wake of last year’s ordeal. That included bolstering officer training, address verification and accountability to validate information provided by informants.
The warrant to search Young’s apartment listed Officer Alain Aporongao, a six-year veteran of CPD, as the affiant who swore under oath to get a judge’s signature. According to the warrant, a confidential informant told Aporongao they visited the suspect, a convicted felon, at his home less than six days before the raid. The informant said the man showed a semi-automatic pistol with ammunition. Aporongao drove the informant to the apartment and they pointed out Young’s building, telling officers the suspect lived on the first floor.
The warrant listed the names of 13 officers — all of them men — as part of the official raid team.
For the past two years, CBS 2 has reported an investigative series focusing on Chicago Police Department raids at wrong addresses. The TV station spoke to at least a dozen people victimized by erroneous search warrants from the police agency.
In October 2019, CBS 2 aired a 30-minute documentary addressing the alarming issue.
The chain of emails surrounding the search warrant at Young’s residence began Nov. 8, 2019 — just four days before CBS 2 first aired the story about the police raid on Young’s apartment. Michele Youngerman, an investigative producer for CBS Chicago, sent the city’s former deputy press secretary Pat Mullane an email asking him when city officials would release the bodycam tape. She also summarized the Young raid and let him know the station planned to air a story about the botched search warrant.
Youngerman is one of the reporters who worked on the TV station’s investigative series. She told Mullane that Young had submitted an FOIA request for the video as well and was yet to receive it.
The emails indicated 22 officers outfitted with body-worn cameras helped execute the search warrant at Young’s home.
Mullane sent Youngerman’s email up the city’s chain of command and said he was “more interested” in why Young’s FOIA had yet to be fulfilled.
On Nov. 13, the Chicago Police Department denied CBS’ public records request, citing an ongoing investigation by the department’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Police officials indicated the public release of the video would interfere with that internal investigation. CBS indicates that review wasn’t launched until the day after the news station broke Young’s story online, more than nine months after the raid on her home. The investigation remains open, the Chicago Tribune reported.
None of the city’s cabinet members invoked Lightfoot in the emails until Nov. 11, on the eve of the CBS news report. Michael Crowley, Chicago’s top city spokesman, asked if the mayor had been debriefed.
“Susan, is MLL aware of this incident and situation?” he asked Susan Lee, Lightfoot’s top advisor and public safety strategist.
“I told her there was a bad incident but did not go into details,” Lee responded.
Minutes later, Lee forwarded the video to Lightfoot’s email.
“Mayor, please see below for a pretty bad wrongful raid coming out tomorrow,” she wrote. “Media FOIA was denied and victim FOIA request is in the works to be released to her tomorrow within the deadline period.”
Crowley told Lee he would follow up with the mayor “and let her know what we expect from CBS.”
Lightfoot weighed in less than 30 minutes later, indicating she’d included Tamika Puckett, one of the city’s chief risk officers, into the conversation.
“I have a lot of questions about this one,” the mayor wrote. “Can we do a quick call about it? Is 10:00 i.e. 10 minutes from now possible?”
Later that afternoon, Lee emailed then-interim CPD Supt. Charlie Beck alerting him to the looming CBS 2 story.
“(These) type of raids have been exposed multiple times,” Lee wrote. “What is the rate of wrongful raid — either wrong address or bad intel — at LAPD? Are CI infos routinely cross validated?”
The following day, Lightfoot followed up on the conversation calling for better officer training.
“We need to escalate training for the 2+ search warrant affiants. We cannot afford any additional hits,” she wrote in an email to Puckett, Lee and her chief of staff Maurice Classen.
In a Nov. 26 CBS 2 story, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul described the wrong raids chronicled by the news station as “disturbing” and called for the pattern to end.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Raoul told CBS. “I had an opportunity to review some of the stories, and what hollered out at me is the trauma that the kids endured — the innocent kids endured — as a result of these situations. You can’t undo that.”
Seven days later, Lightfoot forwarded a link of the story to Puckett, Lee, Classen and Mark Flessner, the city’s top attorney.
“Where are we on a new protocol for the execution of search warrants?” the mayor asked.
CBS 2 aired another wrong raid story during its Feb. 6 nightly newscast. It didn’t go unnoticed by City Hall and Chicago PD officials. Michele Morris, the police department’s risk management officer, forwarded Puckett a Twitter link previewing the story
“So much for them forgetting about it,” Morris wrote in the email.
The fallout from the bodycam footage has been swift and widespread.
Flessner resigned from his post as corporation counsel on Dec. 20 amid the national firestorm. Flessner’s office tried to block the video from becoming public and sought to have Young sanctioned for violating an alleged gag order by sharing the video, Chicago Tribune reported.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, all of the officers involved in the raid have been re-assigned to desk duty while COPA completes its internal department review.
Joe Ferguson, the city’s inspector general, is investigating the incident at the behest of several city aldermen. Mayor Lightfoot, meanwhile, has asked retired federal judge Ann Claire Williams to lead a separate investigation.
Young has filed a lawsuit against the city for initially denying her FOIA request for the infamous bodycam footage.
She was slated to meet with Lightfoot Wednesday to discuss the raid and city officials’ subsequent response. But Young cancelled the meeting, as reported by the Sun-Times. Her attorney, Keenan Saulter, said she wanted to meet in a public forum and invited a group of aldermen, but Lightfoot wanted to have a private discussion.
“For Ms. Young, the mayor’s apologies without action ring hollow and fall on deaf ears,” Salter said. “The mayor’s apology, more than a year after she found out about Ms. Young’s treatment at the hands of the Chicago Police Department (by her own admission), is not justice.”