Just two months after an August 2014 police shooting sparked unrest in Ferguson, Mo., a Chicago cop shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald, saying the African American boy lunged at officers with a knife after responding to reports of car break-ins.
Soon after, longtime WMAQ Chicago journalist Carol Marin got a tip that what actually occurred the night of Oct. 21 conflicted with the official police account of the shooting, which was captured on video.
Weeks before the city council approved a $5 million settlement for McDonald's family, and six months before the officer who shot McDonald was charged with first-degree murder, Marin was delving into the story.
The investigation will be honored with a Peabody Award Saturday night. WMAQ is one of three local broadcasters included in this year’s 30 Peabody winners.
“I think we always knew it had the potential to be a huge investigation and a national story," Marin said in a station interview.
“Anytime you have a young African American man on camera being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer as he moves away from – not towards – the officer, there is a serious issue,” she said.
Magnifying the issue was that the country was still reeling from the aftermath of a similar shooting in Ferguson, she said. A contentious mayoral race was underway, sparking questions whether politics played into the way the case was handled.
The investigation reaped results. Marin was one of the first to report about 86 minutes of missing surveillance video taken from a Burger King near where the shooting occurred. Her reporting contributed to the release of the full McDonald shooting police report and uncover emails that show Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration received and sent emails about the video of the police shooting long before the mayor said he was fully briefed, according to WMAQ.
The Peabody Award committee praised the NBC O&O’s work.
“Launching its probe six months before a Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald, WMAQ’s relentless, unrivaled reporting brought to light a host of police procedural infractions, official disinformation and outright lies, and contributed to a police department shake-up,” it said.