CHICAGO — Mayor Lori Lightfoot was told the Chicago Police raid on Anjanette Young’s home was “pretty bad” by her staff in November 2019, emails released Wednesday evening show.
And the emails show Lightfoot asked her staff to include her on a call so she could learn more about what happened — even though, earlier this month, Lightfoot acknowledged she was told about the raid but she didn’t “have any specific recollection” of it.
The raid of Young’s home — and the city’s handling of its aftermath — has become a crisis for Lightfoot. She was not mayor when it took place, but her administration fought Young’s attempts to obtain videos of the raid and initially sought to punish her attorney after CBS2 broadcast video of the incident earlier this month.
After admitting she’d been made aware of the raid a year before she initially claimed, the mayor pledged to release the emails showing how the issue was brought to her attention.
The email chain included a forwarded message from then-Deputy Press Secretary Patrick Mullane that described the February 2019 raid, including how police officers “allegedly left [Young] standing for 40 minutes handcuffed and naked while all-male police officers searched her apartment.”
The emails show Susan Lee, Lightfoot’s former deputy mayor for public safety, and other city and police officials scrambling to share information about the raid and figure out how they’d respond to a report about the raid that CBS2 was pursuing.
“Mayor, please see below for a pretty bad wrongful raid coming out tomorrow,” Lee wrote in a Nov. 11, 2019, email to Lightfoot about the CBS2 report.
“I have a lot of questions about this one,” Lightfoot wrote back, adding the city’s chief risk office, Tamika Puckett, onto the email chain. “Can we do a quick call about it?”
In subsequent emails, the mayor pushed for updates on the Police Department’s search warrant reforms.
“We need to escalate the training for the 2+ search warrant affiants,” Lightfoot wrote. “We cannot afford any additional hits.”
Puckett replied, “Agreed. We meet again tomorrow and will prioritize and reduce the timeline on the final training plan.”
The emails also show Lightfoot was aware of a Nov. 26, 2019, CBS2 interview with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul about the wrongful raids — including the one on Young’s home. Lightfoot sent a link to the interview from her private email address to her government address on Dec. 3, 2019.
The Raoul story includes an interview with Young on the raid at her home, but not the video, as well as details on another wrongful raid in which police officers pointed guns at a child.
Ten minutes after sending the story to her government email address, Lightfoot forwarded the interview to Puckett with a note asking, “Where are we on a new protocol for the execution of search warrants.”
Puckett responded later that morning with a list of reforms that were then implemented by the mayor in early 2020.
The city created a portal to read the emails and other documents after widespread criticism about its handling of the incident. Lightfoot’s office billed it as part of the city’s commitment to being more transparent, but the emails were released by the city about 4 p.m. Wednesday, as many were already preparing for a long holiday weekend.
The emails also show the back-and-forth between CBS2 and FOIA officers with the city, along with attempts by the Police Department to avoid releasing the body camera footage that shocked Chicagoans earlier this month.
It appears the mayor’s staff was working at the time on the assumption the video would be provided to Young, with Mullane even suggesting “CBS-2 will likely still receive the footage from [Young] and include it” in their coverage, despite CBS2 having its own request for the video denied.
But Young’s request was eventually denied, as well, after the Civilian Office of Police Accountability confirmed it was investigating the incident and claimed providing the videos to Young could impede the investigation.
That investigation remains ongoing, with COPA saying it could wrap up in early 2021.
Young eventually received the footage earlier this year as the result of a federal lawsuit against the city. That lawsuit was withdrawn, but her attorney, Keenan Saulter, has promised a separate lawsuit is coming over the city’s handling of the case.
The emails also show how city officials worked in other ways to downplay and control the way the incident would be reported — in one case in January 2020, planning to provide information to CBS2 for a story when Lightfoot would be in Washington, D.C.
“So much for them forgetting about it,” Michele Morris, the Police Department’s director of risk management, wrote in a Feb. 6, 2020, email after being told by another police official CBS2 was still working on a story about the incident.
In a press release accompanying the emails, the Mayor’s Office admitted they were not “exhaustive or comprehensive of a full review of all emails surrounding the raid on Ms. Young’s home.”
“They represent an initial production of materials in response to the Mayor’s public statements of making such materials available, in her ongoing commitment to transparency,” according to the Mayor’s Office.
The press release also states Lightfoot’s staff never gave her a “detailed briefing” on the raid, despite Mullane’s email and the phone call briefing referenced in the emails.
Initially, Lightfoot said she learned of the raid from a Dec. 14, 2020, report by CBS2, which aired footage of the incident alongside an interview with Young.
But a day later, Lightfoot admitted she became “generally” aware of the news station’s ongoing coverage of wrongful raids — including the raid on Young’s home — when her staff emailed her in November 2019, more than a year before CBS2’s report.
Lightfoot said she responded to an email by directing her staff to raise the issue with the city’s chief risk officer, but she said she had no “specific recollection” of receiving the email. She’s said the first time she watched video of the incident was Dec. 15, 2020, the day after CBS2 aired body camera footage of the raid.
The release of the emails comes on the same day Lightfoot and Young were meant to meet at Young’s church, but the meeting was canceled by Saulter. He said he canceled the meeting after he was told by the mayor’s top attorney she would not participate in a public forum meant to follow the private conversation.
Video from the raid shows officers bursting into Young’s home as she prepared for bed. She was unable to put on clothes or answer the door before officers barreled through.
The officers searched Young’s home as she was left naked and handcuffed. Young, visibly distressed in the video, told the officers she lives alone and they had the wrong home.
Once the video and those actions came to light, Lightfoot apologized and asked for the resignation of the city’s top lawyer. The Police Department has implemented changes to its raid policies, and COPA — which hadn’t made any significant movement on its investigation of the raid after a year — will soon have a conclusion, its chief has said.
The city has made a number of missteps in how it’s handled the case, adding fuel to the controversy.
Officials realized they didn’t provide Young with all of the video of the raid, finding and turning over six more videos. And Lightfoot initially denied knowing about the raid until CBS2 broadcast video of it — but then said she was informed of the raid a year ago. The city also tried to get the court to punish CBS2 and Saulter, but it’s now withdrawn those actions.
Aldermen excoriated Lightfoot and the Police Department for how they handled the raid and its aftermath during an hours-long hearing last week.
Read the emails here:
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