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Video of Police Killing Ronnie Johnson Should Be Released: Slain Man's Mom

By  Kelly Bauer and Alex Nitkin | December 1, 2015 9:40am 

 Dorothy Holmes holds a photo of her son Ronald
Dorothy Holmes holds a photo of her son Ronald "Ronnie" Johnson, who was shot by police in 2014.
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CHICAGO — Around the same time Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the creation of a new task force for police oversight, Dorothy Holmes called for the officer who killed her son to be brought to justice.

Ronald "Ronnie" Johnson, 25, was shot and killed by a Chicago officer on Oct. 12, 2014 — eight days before McDonald was killed. Police have said Johnson pointed a gun at an officer, but Holmes said she has seen video footage of the incident showing that her son wasn't carrying anything when he was gunned down.

"It's very important for me to clear my son's name, because [police] went on TV that night and lied in front of a million people," Holmes said.

Holmes was flanked by attorney Michael Oppenheimer, who said he filed a civil rights lawsuit last year on her behalf requesting permission to release the video. But, he said, the city got a “protective order” from a federal judge, which precluded him from doing so.

Oppenheimer said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of Johnson's family, and it was denied. He then filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, which is now pending, he said.

On the night in question, Officer George Hernandez fired six shots at Johnson's back, according to a wrongful death complaint filed on Holmes's behalf on Oct. 29, 2014, a few weeks after the shooting. The claim by police that Johnson had pointed a weapon at police were "completely misleading and false," the complaint read.

Oppenheimer, who said he also saw the video, said he believed officers tampered with the scene to make it look like Johnson was carrying a gun.

"The dashcam video, which I'm not allowed to show you today, clearly shows that he was not carrying a weapon, nor did he ever turn and point anything," Oppenheimer said. "The police department planted that gun, because there's no way anything could have stayed in his hand after he was shot."

Oppenheimer added that in tapes of radio chatter recovered from that night, police can be heard "requesting officers to go off air and communicate only by personal cell phone," offering further evidence of foul play.

The attorney asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to handle the case, calling on State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign for her refusal to move the investigation forward.

"She's been sitting on these videos for 13 months while doing nothing for justice or the community," Oppenheimer said. "There has been no investigation of this case. Let her correct me if I'm wrong."

In October, weeks before the video of Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer went public, Dorothy Holmes attended a Downtown protest calling for a video of her own son's death to be released. 

Holmes joined more than 100 activists marching from Bridgeport to Downtown Chicago to "shut down" McCormick Place, where thousands of police officers had gathered for the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference.

Johnson left behind four daughters and a son, Holmes said, now between the ages of 2 and 9. She said friends and neighbors knew him as "Ronnie Man" or "The Dog Man" for his tendency to find stray dogs and nurse them to health.

"Even on the saddest day, he could put a smile on your face," Holmes said of her son, who she raised in Altgeld Gardens.

The McDonald video came to light after the city denied a similar FOIA request, which led to a lawsuit. The judge ultimately ruled the Police Department did not meet the exemptions that would permit withholding the video in a FOIA request.

"We're not going nowhere. We're going to fight back," Holmes said in October. "We have to fight back to get justice. We're going to fight back until we get it."

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