POLITICS

Images Appear To Show Police Viewing The Now-Missing Laquan McDonald Video

Chicago police maintain they had nothing to do with a mysterious gap in the footage.

Nearly an hour and a half of surveillance footage from the night of Laquan McDonald's death is missing from the security system at a Chicago Burger King near the scene of the black teen's alleged murder, and new evidence obtained by NBC Chicago suggests police may have been the last ones to view it.

Jay Darshane, district manager for the Burger King at Pulaski Road and 41st Street, told NBC Chicago in May that his cameras were fully operational when police came in on Oct. 20, 2014, the night of the shooting. While he wasn't at the restaurant at the time, he said he authorized the manager on duty to give the officers access to the footage. He suggested that the video wouldn't show the fatal 16 shots, but it might contain details about what happened directly before and after officer Jason Van Dyke killed McDonald.

The next day, however, Darshane discovered an 86-minute gap in the footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m. Prosecutors say Van Dyke fired the first of 16 rounds at 9:57. Darshane -- who testified about the missing video before a federal grand jury earlier this year, according to the Chicago Tribune -- said he believes police deleted the key footage. But local law enforcement officials say they haven't found evidence that the security system was tampered with.

Now NBC Chicago has revealed the two screen grabs below, which appear to show at least one officer reviewing security recordings at Burger King on the night of McDonald's death.

In an interview with NPR last week, Chicago attorney Craig Futterman said he'd seen footage similar to the screen grabs obtained by NBC. He accused the police of erasing the key minutes.

"The officer went into the Burger King, and he erased all seven of those files," said Futterman, who aggressively lobbied for the release of a related video taken by the police dashcam. "The irony is, though, that the Burger King surveillance video was running while the officer erased them. And so there's a videotape of the officer erasing the video."

The grainy images don't show exactly what officers are doing or for how long, but Darshane recently told the Tribune that police had come with their own information technology specialist and hung around the restaurant until about midnight. He also claimed that officers were having a difficult time operating the security system.

At a press conference last week, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez described the matter of the mysterious gap as closed. She said "forensic testing" had revealed no tampering, but refused to answer any further questions.

Also at the press conference, Garry McCarthy, then superintendent of Chicago's police force, called allegations that his officers had altered the footage "absolutely untrue." The missing video was the result of "technical difficulties," he said.

On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that he had asked for and received McCarthy's resignation. Referencing the Burger King allegations, Emanuel said "all that is being looked at by the Justice Department."

The questions surrounding the video gap are only part of the scrutiny now directed at the McDonald case. It took more than a year for the city to release the dashcam footage of Van Dyke shooting McDonald. Four more dashcam videos have since been released, and none of the five have come with audio. Officials have done little to explain why, but McCarthy had previously suggested that the lack of sound could also be the result of "technical difficulties."

Watch the whole report from NBC Chicago:

UPDATE: Dec. 4 -- The Chicago Tribune has obtained more complete video from Burger King's security system, showing police officers in the restaurant shortly after Laquan McDonald's death viewing footage. According to the Tribune, the gaps in footage taken outside the restaurant around the time of the shooting are also present in the footage taken inside.

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