The Chicago Police must release a hotly contested video showing a white officer repeatedly shooting a black teen, a judge ordered on Thursday.
The dash cam footage showing the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014 has been described as so graphic that the teen's mother feared its release could trigger racial unrest like what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore after officers killed unarmed black men in those cities.
A city lawyer even said the video was a factor in the unusual decision by the city to approve a $5 million payment to McDonald's family before his relatives had even filed a lawsuit.
While Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore were both unarmed, McDonald had a 4-inch knife. Officials have claimed that he acted erratically and disobeyed orders to drop the weapon when confronted by police in the Archer Heights neighborhood.
The police union has said that an officer shot McDonald out of fear for his life after the teen allegedly lunged at him with the knife. But even the city's attorney has said McDonald was walking away when he was shot. The officer shot the teen after he fell to the ground, according to McDonald's family.
An autopsy found that McDonald had been shot 16 times and had the drug PCP in his system.
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered police to divulge the video by Nov. 25, according to NBC Chicago. Although initially expected to appeal the decision, the city announced later Wednesday it would comply with the judge's order and release the video next week.
The officer, who has not been officially identified, has not been charged with a crime. He's restricted to desk duty while the shooting gets reviewed. A grand jury's decision on whether to indict him could come as early as next week.
Media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune had filed various requests to pry the footage from the police department. Police and city officials including Mayor Rahm Emanuel had refused to share it, citing an ongoing federal investigation into the shooting and concern that airing it would impede a fair trial later.
But on Wednesday, state Attorney General Lisa Madigan separately ruled against them, saying they had not adequately explained how the footage would undermine a potential fair trial.
This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the city of Chicago will not appeal the judge's decision, and Chicago police will release the video.