Ex-Chicago police chief says he took the fall in Laquan McDonald case

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Garry McCarthy Makes First Public Comments Since Firing In Wake Of Laquan McDonald Shooting

CHICAGO, March 11 (Reuters) - Former Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy, speaking publicly for the first time since he was fired, said this week he took the fall in the city's handling of a white officer's shooting of a black teenager and the delayed release of a video of the incident.

Officer Jason Van Dyke's shooting of Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 and the release of the video more than one year later sparked days of protests in Chicago.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officers in U.S. cities have fueled demonstrations and stoked a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

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Ex-Chicago police chief says he took the fall in Laquan McDonald case
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, middle, leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke leaves the Cook County Jail after posting bond on Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Chicago. Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald, right, walks down the street moments before being shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times, was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. (Chicago Police Department via AP)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
This undated autopsy diagram provided by the Cook County Medical Examiner's office shows the location of wounds on the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald who was shot by a Chicago Police officer 16 times in 2014. A judge on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 ordered the city to release squad car dashcam video of the shooting. The officer has been stripped of his police powers, but remains at work on desk duty. (Cook County Medical Examiner via AP)
Rev. Jesse Jackson right, hugs Fred Hampton Jr., left, after a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, with first degree murder in the killing. Hampton's father Fred Hampton Sr. was the Illinois chapter President of the Black Panther Party and was shot and killed in 1969. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy appear at a news conference, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Chicago, announcing first-degree murder charges against police officer Jason Van Dyke in the Oct. 24, death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The city then released the dash-cam video of the shooting to media outlets after the news conference. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to the media during a vigil for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed Oct. 20, 2014 in Chicago. Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, with first degree murder in the killing. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired McCarthy, police superintendent since May 2011, on Dec. 1.

"One of the things that people love to say to me in Chicago, they say, 'Man, you got screwed, but somebody had to take the hit.' I said, you're right," McCarthy said during a forum at Harvard University on Tuesday.

"All the things that people wanted, from police oversight and outside investigatory agencies, exist, and at the end of the day they didn't like the results. And somebody had to take the fall, somebody had to take the hit. Hi," McCarthy said, waving to indicate he was that somebody.

Emanuel, who said when he announced McCarthy's departure that he had done a good job but had become "a distraction," did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Chicago police representative could not immediately be reached.

Van Dyke was charged in late November with first-degree murder in McDonald's killing. The video, from a patrol car's dashboard camera, was released on the same day.

McCarthy said he and the police department were not involved with the video or its release, and that it was in the hands of the state's attorney working with the U.S. attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Independent Police Review Authority.

"We had nothing to do with it," McCarthy said. "If I was asked, which I wasn't, I would have recommended that we don't release it until the investigation is concluded because that has been police department practice."

McCarthy said during his tenure, Chicago saw a 40 percent reduction in overall crime, a 68 percent decline in police-related shootings and a fewer complaints against officers.

"I have gotten universal support," he said, "from every single person - black, white, green, purple - across the city. Everybody who I've run into, not one person has said anything negative to me." (Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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