Chicago mayor apologizes for teen’s death, vows reforms

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times Media via AP )

CHICAGO (AP) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel, known for keeping vise-like control over Chicago and his own political image, finds himself in the weakest position of his long public career as he struggles to respond to a police scandal, claims of cover-ups at City Hall and calls for his resignation.

But the former White House chief of staff has said repeatedly that he will not step down. The nation’s third-largest city has no process for a mayor to be recalled, though a state lawmaker from Chicago introduced a proposal Wednesday to allow for it. And most of the cries for Emanuel to resign have come from grassroots activists and residents, not from the city’s political powerbrokers. The next election — should he seek another term — isn’t until 2019.

On Wednesday, the mayor used a special meeting of the Chicago City Council to try to calm the firestorm, apologizing for the fatal shooting of a black teen by a white officer and promising “complete and total” reform.

“I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch. And if we’re going to fix it, I want you to understand it’s my responsibility with you,” Emanuel said during a sometimes-emotional speech that lasted nearly 45 minutes. “But if we’re also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step.

“And I’m sorry.”

The remarks were Emanuel’s lengthiest and seemingly most heartfelt since the public got its first look last month at the squad car video that showed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald veering away from officer Jason Van Dyke before Van Dyke began shooting, hitting McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder.

Critics have repeatedly accused Emanuel of keeping the footage under wraps until after he won a tougher-than-expected spring election for a second term. The mayor has denied the claim and acknowledged Wednesday that he should have pressed for prosecutors to wrap up their investigation sooner so the video could be made public.

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