Allegations of police tampering with surveillance footage from a Burger King near where McDonald was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer continue to fuel theories that there may have been more information covered up or buried, though FBI authorities and state prosecutors deny it.
A Chicago-area Burger King district manager first claimed in May that Chicago police officers deleted footage from security cameras at a Burger King restaurant at 40th Street and Pulaski Road, very close to the spot where 17-year old McDonald was shot and killed.
About 86 minutes of footage from the video is missing from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., according to a report from NBC. Disgraced officer Jason Van Dyke fired his first shot at approximately 9:57 p.m. Police trailed McDonald through the fast food chain’s parking lot before Van Dyke unloaded 16 shots at McDonald, just 100 yards from Burger King, according to court documents. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last week and released from jail after posting bond Monday.
Four or five police officers wearing blue and white shirts visited the Burger King, asked to view the surveillance video and were given the password to the equipment, Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King told NBC. They left three hours later. Later, when an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to view the security footage on the next day, 86 minutes of video was missing.
The cameras and video recorder were on and working properly on the night of the shooting and Darshane believes that the detectives deleted the files during their visit. According to State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, the video wouldn’t have shown the shooting itself, but attorneys for McDonald’s family believe it would have shown events leading up to the shooting, as well as some of the aftermath.
“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said to NBC at the time. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”
In response, a spokesperson for the IPRA told NBC that there was “no credible evidence” those officers deleted any footage. At a press conference after Van Dyke was indicted, Alvarez said a forensic test done on the system showed no evidence or tampering. But she did not respond to questions over how that investigation was done, or where that footage might have gone, and her office did not respond to our request for comment after the press conference.
Officials have downplayed the relevance of the video, which would not have likely showed footage of the shooting itself, which was captured at different angles on police car dashcams. But the missing footage remains mystery. Monday evening, the Sun-Times reported an ” unnamed source” close to the investigation said the FBI reiterated what Alvarez said at her press conference, and that the surveillance system was “a mess” anyway:
“They looked at it and found absolutely no evidence of any tampering or any removal of any portion of the tape. That system that Burger King has is a mess and it would break down in the weeks and months before this incident. There were major gaps everywhere.”
The unnamed source added that police weren’t “trying to delete anything.” All that tape would show is [McDonald] running around before the shooting. There was no reason for them to tamper with it.”
According to a new report from NBC’s Carol Marin, however, those surveillance cameras weren’t such a mess when police went inside the Burger King and sat at its computer terminal. Two screen-grabs of footage posted by the network show at least one white-shirted officer at a computer terminal with two different employees. Darshane said officers stayed at the Burger King until almost midnight and even brought in an IT specialist while trying to figure out the system.
“It is curious,” Michael Robbins, an attorney for the McDonald family told reporters. “If they got there and turned it on and found that there was no video, what were they looking at for two hours?”
Chicagoist’s Kate Shepherd contributed to this report.