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Laquan McDonald Shooting Witness Says Police Engaged In Cover Up Tactics

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 29, 2016 5:38PM

A still from the Laquan McDonald dashcam video.

A witness to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald has filed a federal complaint that police demanded she give up her phone as she attempted to film the scene. She also alleges that officers pressured her to retract her witness testimony and that she was detained at police headquarters without cause for six hours.

Alma Benitez charges in the lawsuit, filed on Monday, that “Chicago police officers demanded [she] surrender her phone at the scene of the shooting" once they realized she was filming, according to Courthouse News Service and the Tribune. She arrived from the same nearby Burger King that reported losing over an hour of security footage after police investigation.

Benitez was then allegedly kept at a South Side headquarters with other witnesses until 4 a.m. (The shooting happened around 10 p.m.) There, Chicago police officers told her that her account was "not what really happened."

"Chicago police officers told Plaintiff they had video of the shooting that contradicted her account of what she witnessed," the suit alleges, according to the Tribune.

The complaint goes on to claim a “pattern and practice of suppressing, concealing and covering up incidents of police misconduct.”

Witness-documented footage has played a significant role in the public perceptions of several extra-judicial killings of black men by police nationwide this year, including Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and Keith Lamont Scott.

“They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face-to-face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him,” Alma Benitez told reporters in the aftermath of the killing in 2014.

Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by police in October 2014. Officer Jason Van Dyke faces murder charges in the fatal shooting. Police footage—which was released over a year after the fact—appears to contradict police accounts that McDonald was moving toward police when officers fired. The aftermath prompted large-scale demonstrations and what US Attorney Zachary Fardon recently called the largest federal probe in the history of the Justice Department. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that a grand jury will hear evidence against officers who were present at the scene. Last month, CPD moved to fire five officers who were involved in the shooting.