Charges will not be filed against the Chicago police officer involved in the shooting death of Ronald Johnson III, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said Monday.
In releasing dash-cam video of the October 2014 shooting during a news conference today, Alvarez said the video shows Johnson had a gun.
"No criminal charges should be filed because the crime cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Alvarez stated.
"Based upon an objective review of the evidence and the law, we have determined that the prosecution could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of Officer Hernandez were not reasonable and permissible under the laws of the state of Illinois," she added.
Johnson, a 25-year-old African American, was shot by police during a foot chase near 53rd Street and South King Drive. Prior to the chase, a car Johnson was riding in with friends was shot at by someone. Johnson began running from cops after officers arrived at the scene, according to police.
Police argue that Johnson pointed a gun at them while resisting arrest, causing officer George Hernandez to fire his weapon.
Hernandez arrived in an unmarked squad car during the chase and jumped out of the vehicle wielding his gun, according to the family's attorney. The grainy video, which has no audio, appears to show police pursuing Johnson as he was running away, and one officer opening fire. Hernandez fired five shots, two of which struck Johnson, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. Johnson is out of frame when he is shot in the back of his shoulder and in the back of the knee. Alvarez said Johnson's DNA was on the gun obtained at the scene.
Johnson's family attorney Michael Oppenheimer claims the 25-year-old did not have a gun at the time of the shooting and did not turn or point any object at officers.
During a press conference Monday, Oppenheimer said the video does not show Johnson carrying a gun.
"It's a shadow. You can see no gun. There is no gun visible in Ronald Johnson's hand because there wasn't one," he said. "There is no gun in his hand. No one can say conclusively that there is any object in his hand."
Johnson's mother, Dorothy Holmes, added, "He had nothing in his hand." She accused police of planting the gun on Johnson. The family wants a federal civil rights investigation launched into Johnson's shooting.
Oppenheimer raised concerns about the Cook County State's Attorney's investigation, noting that it relied partly on information from Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which investigates police-involved shootings. IPRA's chief administrator Scott Ando resigned Sunday evening. Oppenheimer also questioned why there were no "general progress reports," which include notes taken by detectives during interviews with witnesses, for Hernandez and his partner. The only such records for the two officers that have been produced are supplemental reports from detectives, Oppenheimer said.
As for the gun recovered at the scene, Oppenheimer said there was some of Johnson's blood found on the weapon. Oppenheimer said it would have been easy for police to put Johnson's blood on the gun.
"There is nothing to tie Ronald Johnson to anything to do with that gun," he said.
Holmes added, "They found his DNA on the gun, because they put it on there."
"There is no doubt that there has been a cover-up," Oppenheimer said.
ColorOfChange.org is among the groups reacting to news that the Cook County State's Attorney's office will not bring charges against the officer involved in Johnson's death. Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange.org's executive director, issued this statement:
State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's press conference this morning was an obvious and desperate attempt to shift media attention away from the dangerous coverup in her office that allowed the police officer who unjustly killed Laquan McDonald to go uncharged for more than a year -- an office that continues to act as an accomplice to an unchecked Chicago police department.
It is inexcusable that 97% of Chicago police misconduct complaints result in no disciplinary action, despite the fact that the police department has paid half a billion dollars in police brutality settlements since 2004. It is clear that this police department lacks institutional control and that we have a complicit State's Attorney that has no intention of forcing even an ounce of accountability. Prosecutors are one of the most powerful players in our criminal justice system and have a ton of discretion in determining whether to charge police officers for excessive use of force.
This morning, once again we saw video footage of an officer shooting a Black person, Ronald Johnson, in the back. Officers are trained to apprehend suspects, even those who are armed, in ways that don't lead to their death. But time and time again, that training -- that standard of professional conduct -- is not applied to Black suspects of crime. While transparency by prosecutors should be applauded, waiting more than a year to release dash-cam footage is too little, too late. State's Attorney Alvarez must resign."
More than 49,000 ColorOfChange members have called for the resignation of State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. They are joining the voices of local Chicago leaders from youth organizing groups to elected officials who are demanding a shake up of a local government that placed no value on the life of Laquan McDonald.
Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released the following statement on the decision against charging Hernandez:
A life was lost here, and that is a tragedy that can't be taken lightly no matter the circumstances. That's why independent investigations are so crucial in these cases. Now, as our independent police review authority resumes its investigation to determine whether the shooting was consistent with CPD's policy, we must also ask ourselves if the existing policies on the use of deadly force are the right ones and if the training we provide to officers to make split-second decisions in life or death situations is sufficient.
Emanuel is holding a press conference to discuss the changes at IPRA and will likely comment on the Johnson case. Check back with Progress Illinois for coverage of that event.
Release of the Johnson shooting video, which the city had previously fought to keep under wraps, comes after video of the police shooting death of Laquan McDonald went public last month as part of a court order. The officer involved in McDonald's death has been charged with first-degree murder.