Ministers have tense meeting with mayor over police shooting

FOX 32's Dane Placko contributed to this report.

CHICAGO (FOX 32 / AP) — Amid concerns about possible unrest, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a tense meeting with ministers and others Monday to discuss the upcoming release of a video that shows a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager.

Emanuel asked for their help in calling for calm, but some community leaders said afterward that city officials waited too long to get them involved — more than a year after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times.

"You had this tape for a year and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm," one of the ministers, Cory Brooks, said after the meeting.

A judge last week ordered the Police Department to release the squad car dashcam footage by Wednesday after the city refused to do so for several months, saying the investigations into the shooting weren't complete. The FBI and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office are investigating the incident and were expected to make a decision on whether to charge Officer Jason Van Dyke as early as this week.

Ira Acree, who described the meeting with Emanuel as "very tense, very contentious," said the mayor expressed concerns about the prospect of any demonstrations getting out of control.

"Many in my community feel betrayed. Many are so very angry. And protests are imminent," he said.

Acree said Emanuel referred to unrest that broke out in other cities after police killed young African-American men.

"He did say in the meeting that he will not sit on the sidelines and let Chicago become a Ferguson or a Baltimore," he added.

Another minister who attended, Jedidiah Brown, said emotions were running so high that there would be no stopping major protests once the video is released.

"He definitely listened. He definitely understands that something is on the way," Brown said.

The mayor says he hasn't seen the video of the police shooting, but described it as "hideous." He says he's asking community leaders to remind people that protesting is fine, but it should be done responsibly.

"All of us, whether you're elected, or whatever position you have, you are a stakeholder in the city of Chicago. And a stakeholder that has a role and responsibility and a voice to help us build the city," Emanuel said.

But some who met with the mayor say emotions are running high and they can't be expected to clean up City Hall's mess.

"I let the mayor know from my point of view that if this goes awry, this is not any of the pastor's fault. If these demonstrations turn into riots or anything of that sort, we cannot be blamed for that," Brooks said.

"It was the right move, but it was horrible timing. We cannot keep waiting till the pot is boiling to want to put the fire down," Brown added.

Earlier Monday, Emanuel's office characterized the meeting and discussion as something "we regularly do on important topics." But Acree and another minister, Marshall Hatch, said it is a rare occurrence and shows the mayor is concerned there might be violence.

"We have been trying to meet with the mayor since the beginning of the year to talk about community relations and his staff asks for a letter and says 'We'll get back to you,' but they never do," Acree said before going to City Hall for the discussion.

Hatch added: "This has the feeling of them scrambling."

The shooting occurred on Oct. 20, 2014, as police responded to a 911 call of a man carrying a knife. Lawyers for McDonald's family who have seen the video say it shows the teen with a small knife and walking away from officers. They say Van Dyke opens fire from about 15 feet and keeps shooting after the teen falls.

Acree and Hatch said blacks in the city are upset about the shooting and because city officials and the Police Department refused for several months to release the video until ordered to do so by a judge. They said people also are angry because the officer, though stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty and not fired.

"They had the opportunity to be a good example and a model across the country on how to improve police and community relations and they missed it," Acree said.

The Police Department said placing an officer on desk duty after a shooting is standard procedure and that it is prohibited from doing anything more during the investigations.

Other groups turned down the invitation to meet with the mayor, including protesters who appeared in court Monday for disrupting a city event last month.

"Young black people are not interested in meeting with him to talk about this video or hearing whatever it is that he has to say," said Veronica Morris-Moore of Fearless Leading by the Youth.

FOX 32: Why not?

"We're not interested because when we need the mayor, he 's not there," Morris-Moore added.

Sources also told FOX 32 News that the shooting video was supposed to be made public on Tuesday. However, with a major announcement expected from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez on Tuesday regarding criminal charges in the case, the release of the video has been pushed back to Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Sources say Van Dyke is expected to appear in court on Tuesday at noon.

The Mayor is also expected to put together a public service announcement that may go on the radio or television and appeal for calm, sources tell FOX 32.

The City of Chicago settled out of court with McDonald’s family even before the family filed a lawsuit.

The FBI and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office are investigating the fatal shooting.

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