DOJ to examine Chicago police; no charges in second shooting

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Department of Justice Opens Investigation Into Chicago Police Department

The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it will investigate Chicago's police department following protests over the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager, on the same day local prosecutors said they would not seek charges in another police shooting case.

U.S. authorities will look at the department's use of force, including deadly force, among other issues, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news briefing.

"Our goal in this investigation ... is not to focus on individuals but to improve systems," the United States' top law enforcement official said.

See photos from the Laquan McDonald case:

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DOJ to examine Chicago police; no charges in second shooting
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)
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)
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She said federal officials would be investigating "constitutional violations" in one of the nation's largest police departments.

Lynch's announcement came after almost two weeks of protests in Chicago following the release of a 2014 police squad car dashboard video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke emptying his gun into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, shooting him 16 times. Van Dyke, who is white, was charged late last month with first-degree murder.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white police officers in U.S. cities have prompted a national debate and protests about the use of excessive force by police.

Two hours after Lynch's briefing, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez gave a detailed presentation to reporters explaining why she would not seek charges in another 2014 police shooting death of a black man.

Alvarez, who has been under fire for her handling of the McDonald case, said that Ronald Johnson III, 25, was holding a gun and fleeing arrest when he was shot by Officer George Hernandez on Oct. 12, 2014.

Prosecutors on Monday showed police car dashboard video to reporters and played audiotapes of police radio communications and 911 emergency calls.

An attorney for Johnson's family, Michael Oppenheimer, has said that the video showed Johnson did not have a gun. Oppenheimer was not immediately available for comment.

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Prosecutors showed reporters an image with a red-colored circle around Johnson's hand, saying that forensic experts clarified images of a weapon.

The video showed Hernandez firing at Johnson as he runs into a park. Alvarez said that Johnson had been asked repeatedly by multiple officers to drop his weapon, and that a 9mm semiautomatic pistol was found with Johnson after he was shot.

Alvarez said officers were at the scene due to an earlier shooting. The car in which Johnson was a passenger had been shot at, and rather than calling police, the driver and passengers had returned to the scene.

Another officer had tried to arrest Johnson, but he had pulled away, knocking the officer over, before running off, Alvarez said.

Alvarez said the weapon recovered from Johnson was linked to a 2013 unsolved shooting.

"Based upon an objective review of the evidence and the law, we have determined that the prosecution could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the actions of Officer Hernandez were not reasonable and permissible," Alvarez said.

Responding to questions about why Johnson was shot in the back, Alvarez said Johnson could have turned and fired at Hernandez or other officers.

Alvarez said that in both the McDonald and Johnson shooting videos, there was no audio, which she found "frustrating."

The federal investigation of Chicago police follows other high-profile investigations of departments in Ferguson, Missouri and in Cleveland. Baltimore police are also under federal scrutiny.

In Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb which drew national attention following the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white police officer, federal authorities found racially biased abuses in both the police department and municipal court.

Last December, the Justice Department found that the Cleveland police systematically engaged in excessive use of force.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had initially disagreed with calls for a federal civil rights investigation, said on Monday that Lynch would have the city's "complete cooperation."

Emanuel, who has faced heavy criticism over the McDonald shooting, has ousted his handpicked police superintendent and replaced the head of the city's Independent Police Review Authority, which reviews police misconduct allegations.

(Reporting by Julia Harte in Washington and Mary Wisniewski and Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)

See more reaction to shootings by police across the country:

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DOJ to examine Chicago police; no charges in second shooting
Protesters hold placards against the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Manhattan, New York, U.S., July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb
People take part in a protest against the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during a march in New York July 7, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Demonstrators march through the streets protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July on December 6, 2014 in New York City. Protests are being staged nationwide after grand juries investigating the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York failed to indict the police officers involved in both incidents. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
A protest sign showing and image of Ezell Ford as members of the 'Black Lives Matter' alliance stage protest outside the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's home as they try to force him to fire LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck, in Los Angeles, California on June 7, 2015. The alliance have renewed protests after a recent report from an LAPD watchdog determined that the August 11, 2014 officer-involved shooting death of 25-year-old Ezell Ford in South Central was justified. AFP PHOTO/ MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
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