CHICAGO — Under fire because of the city’s handling of a botched police raid, Mayor Lori Lightfoot admitted Thursday she knew about the explosive incident a year earlier than she previously claimed and was wrong about a Freedom of Information Act request in the case.
On Wednesday, Lightfoot said she didn’t know of the raid on Anjanette Young’s home or see video of it until she saw it on CBS2’s website Tuesday morning. But upon further review, Lightfoot said Thursday she became “generally” aware of CBS2’s reporting — which included the raid on Young’s home and others — in November 2019.
Lightfoot said her team emailed her about the raids, including the one on Young’s home, and Lightfoot replied by telling them they should talk about the issue with the city’s chief risk officer.
“My team knew that this was an issue of great concern for me — lifted up to me,” Lightfoot said. “… I don’t have any specific recollection of it … but it was flagged for me, and I repeat again that the first time I actually saw the video itself was Tuesday morning … .”
Those emails will be made public, Lightfoot said.
Also Wednesday, Lightfoot said there wasn’t a FOIA request filed for the video, and said a Tribune report saying so was “reckless and irresponsible.” On Thursday, she corrected herself, saying Young did file a FOIA request and it was denied by the city.
“In fact, Ms. Young did file a FOIA request, so I stand corrected on that. It was filed November 2019. It was denied,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot said she’s asked for a “top-to-bottom” review of why the request was denied and will change city policies to ensure a victim who reaches out for police body cam video doesn’t have to file a FOIA request.
The city’s also made video of the incident available online, while shielding Young’s face and body, Lightfoot said.
“We will do better, and we will win back the trust that we have lost this week,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor’s comments come after a CBS 2 news report revealed Young was wrongly targeted by Chicago police officers, who burst into her home last year. Lightfoot’s administration tried to block news media from airing footage of the incident and sought sanctions against Young for allegedly providing it to a news station.
Body cam video of the incident shows at least 12 officers entering Young’s home on an ill-informed search warrant in the evening as Young prepared for bed, leaving her unable to put on clothes or answer the door before officers barrel through.
CBS reported police were acting on an ill-informed search warrant and raided the wrong home.
Supt. David Brown, speaking at Thursday’s news conference, said the department is making changes — though he acknowledged none of that will make what happened to Young any better.
Starting this month, police will now need to get approval form a high-level bureau chief for a no-knock warrant, and those warrants will only be improved if there’s an immediate risk to someone’s health and safety, Brown said
Other changes were made earlier this year: Police now need to wear and activate body cameras while search warrants are conducted, all teams must have at least two officers in uniform during a search, an investigation must be initiated if the wrong home is searched and two police supervisors must sign off on a warrant before it’s brought to a prosecutor. One of those supervisors must be at least a sergeant and the other must be at least a lieutenant.
Police also need to corroborate information from a paid informant through an independent, non-paid source if they’re using it for a search warrant, Brown and Lightfoot said.
Officials are reviewing all search warrants from this year to determine how many were on the wrong homes or where other mistakes were made, Brown said.
But even if officers had been in the right house, Young should have been treated with more respect, and officers need to “exercise due care” in cases where a child is in a home being searched so the child isn’t traumatized, Brown said.
The video shows police search Young’s home as she, handcuffed and nude in her living room, pleads with them that they have bad information and she is alone. One officer retrieves a blanket for Young but she’s unable to hold it closed because she is handcuffed.
Young tells officers more than 40 times they had the wrong address as officers searched her home and asked her to “calm down.”
The CBS report includes footage of one officer telling another there was a mistake in the warrant process before video feed cuts out.
Before CBS aired its report Monday, city attorneys unsuccessfully attempted to block the news station from airing the video and sought sanctions against “the plaintiff” for allegedly providing the video to the station against a court order. Lightfoot said Wednesday she directed city attorneys to make clear with the court they are not seeking sanctions against Young, but only her attorney.
Young said she wants the officers and the mayor held accountable for their actions and for attempting to suppress the video.
“The officers that did this need to be held accountable, to say that this is not right and they should not do that in the line of their work. That’s not what police officers are supposed to do,” she said at press conference Wednesday.
After the story was publicized, writer and professor Eve L. Ewing she’d connected with Young to arrange a fundraiser in support of her. The GoFundMe, which has collected nearly $20,000 as of Wednesday, states Young wants to donate anything raised to the Progressive Baptist Church’s social justice ministry in Bridgeport.
Lightfoot apologized to Young on Wednesday and said she did not know her law department tried to prevent the video from being aired.
“Filing a motion against a media outlet to prevent something from being published is something that should rarely, if ever, happen, and had I been advised this was in the works, I would have stopped it in its tracks,” she said.
Lightfoot did not rule out firing city officials who were involved in the raid or the attempt to block the video from being published, saying she had been “unsparing in her comments to all involved in this colossal mess.”
Lightfoot’s handling of the issue also drew scrutiny among aldermen Wednesday. Members of the Progressive Caucus released a statement calling on the city’s Inspector General to investigate the incident and said they’ll hold hearings on the subject in City Council.
“Whether it’s how the warrant was issued and executed, why the body cams were prematurely turned off, and why the Law Department may have fought the release of this video, Chicagoans deserve to know exactly what went wrong here and what city leaders are going to do to fix it,” the statement said.