Police release body camera footage of fatal shooting of South Shore man

CHICAGO — Chicago police released body camera footage Sunday from an officer involved in the fatal shooting of a South Shore man Saturday, which appears to show the man was reaching for a gun at his waist when he was shot.

According to police, officers on foot patrol in the 2000 block of East 71st Street stopped 37-year-old Harith Augustus around 5:30 p.m. Saturday to question him over a "bulge around his waistband" that suggested he was armed. After he broke free from the officers, police said, he "appeared to be reaching for a weapon," so they shot him.

A Chicago Police Department spokesman tweeted video from a body-worn camera of an officer involved in the shooting Sunday afternoon, as CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson answered questions about the incident.

In the video, several officers appear to arrive as Augustus interacts with officers already on the scene. Three officers then attempt to grab him by the wrists, but he breaks away. The edited video then zooms in on Augustus' waist, which appears to show a holster, gun and magazine of ammunition on his waist when his shirt briefly flies up. The video then slows, and appears to show Augustus running into the street before reaching toward his waistband. That’s when an officer opened fire.

Johnson said Augustus' family saw the video before it was released.

"Last night was a very difficult situation for everyone involved," Johnson said.

The video does not contain any audio because of a 30-second buffer after the camera is turned on, Johnson said.

"It is what it is," Johnson said. "We're not trying to hide anything, we're not trying to fluff anything, the video speaks for itself. When you see it, you come to your own conclusions about what happened."

Johnson said the cop involved in the shooting was a probationary officer who recently completed their field training. He has been placed on 30-day administrative duty while the Civilian Office of Police Accountability investigates the shooting.

It was the fastest release of video in CPD history, prompted by the community outcry that led to a clash with police officers near the scene of the shooting Saturday night.

"The community is also hurting and I promise that CPD will be as transparent as possible," Johnson said. "The community needs some answers and they need them now."

Johnson said police released the video in response to information that was spreading about the incident online.

"I think that 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 they don't go out there uneducated about what happened," Johnson said.

Johnson said police checked "every database" and could find no evidence Augustus had a concealed carry permit, and there was no question he was armed when he was shot.

According to Cook County spokesman Frank Shuftan, Augustus lived in the 7000 block of South Merrill Avenue, blocks away from where the shooting occurred. Medical examiners released his cause of death on Sunday, saying an autopsy found Augustus died of multiple gunshot wounds.

The shooting sparked a clash between angry residents and baton-wielding officers. Four protesters were arrested and some police officers suffered minor injuries from thrown rocks and bottles, some of which were filled with urine. Two squad cars were also damaged.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Augustus wasn't a known gang member and had no recent arrest history. Police found a handgun and two magazines of bullets at the shooting site and sent them for testing, Guglielmi said.

During the protest that followed the shooting, officers pulled people to the ground and struck them with batons.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which investigates officer-involved shootings, said it was analyzing the video and asking anyone who may have captured cellphone footage of it to share the footage with the agency. The agency will release the video to the public within 60 days, unless ordered not to by a court, said agency spokesman Ephraim Eaddy.

It was at least the third time in the last two weeks that a Chicago police officer shot someone.

Chicago has a troubled history of police shootings. The city erupted in protest in 2015 after the release of a video showing a white police officer shoot a black 17-year-old, Laquan McDonald 16 times a year earlier. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with murder. McDonald's death led to the ouster of the police chief and a series of reforms meant to prevent future police abuses and to hold officers accountable.