Chicago, IL – Multiple news media outlets have been reporting that the dead suspect from a Chicago PD shooting was a "victim," despite bodycam video showing that he got taken out while trying to kill police officers (video below).
The New York Post headline was “Police bodycam footage shows gun on victim before deadly shooting” that ran on Sunday night, after Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson released the bodycam footage.
Yahoo! News didn’t actually use the word “victim” in their headline. However, the second paragraph of the story was specific in its identification.
“The victim of the shooting was identified…” Yahoo! News reported.
Possibly reacting to the false rumors, Chicago Sun-Times was quick to report that Augustus was a victim before an official statement was made about the shooting.
The officer-involved shooting of 37-year-old Harith Augustus occurred at about 5:30 p.m. on the July 14.
The bodycam footage was released the next day in an effort to quell the rising protests and attacks on Chicago PD officers that began raging on Saturday night after rumors that Augustus had been unarmed swept the city, WLS-TV reported.
“After consulting with COPA, community members, the Augustus family, I made a decision to release the body-worn camera footage in this case because the community needs some answers, and they need them now,” Sup. Johnson told reporters at a press conference on Sunday evening. “There was a lot of inaccurate information being disbursed last night surrounding this incident.”
He said that the foot patrol officers were in the area at the request of the community when they encountered Augustus and noticed he was armed.
“They see what they think was a holster and a gun protruding from underneath his t-shirt. And that’s what brought them to stop him. They stopped him to question him. And you’ll see on the video what transpires next,” Sup. Johnson told reporters.
The video showed officers approaching Augustus and surrounding him, before a female officer reached to detain him.
In the video, Augustus resisted immediately and spun away from the officers. He ended up against a police SUV, and his shirt rode up to show he was carrying a holstered semi-automatic pistol and extra magazines.
He dashed between cars, away from the officers, grabbing his gun with right hand as he fled, the video showed.
The officer opened fire, and Augustus spun away, but continued to draw, the video showed.
Police found a semi-automatic handgun and at least one fully-loaded additional magazine on Augustus at the scene.
Within hours, the city had erupted with violent "protests" that results in injuries to several Chicago police officers.
At the press conference, Sup. Johnson said police had confirmed that Augustus did have a state firearm owner identification card (FOID), but he did not have a concealed carry permit.
Sup. Johnson said he’d gone to the Chicago Office of Police Accountability, the civilian review panel tasked with investigating all officer-involved shootings, and asked them to let him release the video early because of his concerns for the safety of the city.
The superintendent said he’d also consulted with Augustus’s family and showed them the video prior to releasing it to the public.
“After seeing what I saw last night and talking to some of our community members, as well as the family… You know, the family wants to ensure there’s a just investigation, but they also said to me that they want to make sure this city doesn’t overreact and bad things happen because of that,” he said.
“So I think the narrative that was out there that he was an ‘unarmed individual’ – I think it’s our responsibility to let people know what actually occurred so that they don’t go out there uneducated about it,” Sup. Johnson said.
He said the situation with “bottles being thrown, urine being thrown” was a result of the false narrative that Augustus had been unarmed when he was shot.
Interestingly, the same media who usually clamor for the police to release bodycam videos quickly appeared judgmental of the superintendent’s decision to release this footage so quickly at the press conference.
“At the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to make sure this city is safe,” Sup. Johnson said. “So I think part of the problem… if we don’t get in front of things, the narrative will spin completely out of control.”
He had a message that was for reporters as much as it was for the community.
“I just urge people – we will be as transparent as we can but we still have to honor the process in the investigation – so I urge people not to just jump out there putting false information out there because when you do that, you jeopardize not just the police officers, but the community members out there,” the superintendent said.
“You know, so that’s why it’s my job along with my staff to make sure we put as much out there as we can to try to diffuse those negative things that are out there," he added.
Sup. Johnson offered condolences to the family of Augustus, but at no point did he ever refer to the armed man who had been shot by police as a “victim" of the police officers.
But the detailed description of what did, and what did not, occur from the police superintendent wasn't enough to stop some media outlets from calling the armed man who reached for his illegal concealed weapon as he resisted arrest a “victim,” despite every indication to the contrary.
A full day after video was released, the American Civil Liberties Union took to Twitter to promote the idea that Augustus was a victim.
A number of publications also incorrectly reported that the female officer in the video was the officer who shot Augustus.
That was not true. Sup. Johnson confirmed that the officer was male, and was a probationary officer who had completed his field training.
The superintendent wrapped up his press conference by saying he’d released the video “in the interest of public safety” and imploring people to be guided by “facts, not emotion.”
Five hours later, the New York Post published their “victim” headline, despite the bodycam video and police superintendent’s statement.
Watch the bodycam video of the officer-involved shooting below: