Chicago lawyers attempted to block release of video showing police handcuffing innocent, naked woman

Grace Hauck, USA TODAY

Chicagoans and city officials are enraged after city lawyers attempted to stop the release of police body camera video that shows officers executing a search warrant in the wrong home and handcuffing an innocent, naked and terrified woman nearly two years ago.

CBS Chicago released the video Monday of officers breaking into the home of Anjanette Young, a social worker who had just returned home from work and undressed.

Nine body cameras are rolling as the officers use a battering ram to break open her door and barge into her home, guns drawn. The officers handcuff Young behind her back and attempt to cover her in blankets, which continue to slide off her bare shoulders as she repeatedly screams and tells the officers they have the wrong home.

"It’s one of those moments where I felt I could have died that night," Young told CBS. "Like if I would have made one wrong move, it felt like they would have shot me. I truly believe they would have shot me."

The city's lawyers attempted to stop CBS from airing the video this week by filing an emergency motion in federal court just hours before the broadcast, which a judge rejected. CBS previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video, but the Chicago Police Department denied the request. Young sued the police, and the court forced the department to provide the video.

"I feel like they didn’t want us to have this video because they knew how bad it was," Young told CBS. "They knew they had done something wrong. They knew that the way they treated me was not right."

The city provided Young's lawyer with the video in March of 2020, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday. In a city with a long and ugly history of withholding police body cam videos, Lightfoot, who campaigned as a reformer, has faced many questions this week from residents, reporters and city officials about why city lawyers attempted to stop the video's release.

In a press conference Wednesday, Lightfoot said she was "blindsided" by the filing and was unaware of the incident and video until Tuesday morning. Lightfoot said she was under the impression that Young had violated a protective order.

"I made it very clear to the corporation council that I will not be blindsided by issues like this," Lightfoot said Wednesday. "Filing a motion against a media outlet to prevent something from being published is something that should rarely, if ever, happen, and had I been advised that this was in the works, I would have stopped it in its tracks. This is not how we operate. Period."

She added, "If you can hear that my voice is hoarse, it is because I have been unsparing in my comments to all involved in this colossal mess. Miss Young’s dignity, that she and all of us deserve, was taken from her in those moments, and that is simply inexcusable . . . I am sorry."

The raid happened in February of 2019, under former mayor Rahm Emanuel, and has been under investigation by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city's civilian police oversight agency. Lightfoot said it was "ridiculous" that the agency has not yet released the video. She ordered the agency to conclude its investigation "as soon as possible."

Lightfoot said she watched the video for the first time Tuesday "in absolute horror." While the incident did not happen "on (her) watch," Lightfoot said her administration issued a new search warrant policy in January of 2020. The new policy requires two supervisors to sign off on a warrant and a pre-check of the location.

"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we've solved every problem, but we responded to what we were seeing was way too many circumstances of officers going into the wrong home," Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot announced a series of new measures Wednesday and said that she had ordered a review of "how this matter was handled." Lightfoot said the city would be releasing the entire length of the body-worn cameras, beyond what was published by CBS. Lightfoot said she had ordered a review of the city’s video release policy and was calling on the state legislature to allow for more flexibility to release body-worn camera footage. She said she had also directed the city's law department to provide a review of all pending search warrant cases.

The incident sparked a brief debate during a City Council meeting Wednesday. Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez raised the issue.

"I do think it is important that the city recognizes that we have a systemic issue with police brutality," Sigcho-Lopez said. "Miss Young called out the police 43 times, 43 times to denounce that this was an illegal and wrong, mistaken raid in her house. ... The public deserves and explanation of what happened."

Lightfoot told Sigcho-Lopez that he was out of order and did "not know the facts."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anjanette Young: Chicago lawyers tried to block police video release