Judge bars release of bodycam video in fatal shooting of Chicago police officer

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(CHICAGO) — A judge has temporarily barred Chicago authorities from releasing body camera video, described by a prosecutor in chilling detail, of Chicago police Officer Ella French being gunned down during a traffic stop.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability in Chicago said in a statement that it received the order Monday from a Cook County Circuit Court judge forbidding the “the city of Chicago and its entities” from publicly releasing any material connected to shooting under the city’s Video Release Policy and the Freedom of Information Act.

The video allegedly shows suspect Emonte “Monty” Morgan opening fire on French and her partner, who was critically injured, during an Aug. 7 traffic stop, according to prosecutors.

In the one-page ruling, the judge did not elaborate on a reason for the decision, only writing that body camera video and other evidence can’t be released “during the pendency of the criminal matter.”

“COPA remains committed to transparency and is conducting a full analysis and investigation of the incident,” the police watchdog group said in a statement. “Body-worn cameras, third party video and other materials related to this incident will be released upon the lifting of the Judge’s court order.”

The development comes as French’s colleagues and loved ones prepare for her funeral, scheduled for Thursday at St. Rita of Cascia Shrine in Chicago. Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, announced on Monday that he will deliver the homily.

French, 29, is the first Chicago police officer since 2018 killed in the line of duty and the city’s first female officer killed in the line of duty since 1988, officials said.

Morgan, 21, was arrested after being shot during a gunfight with one of French’s fellow officers, who escaped injury in the encounter, according to a criminal complaint. Morgan has been charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder of a police officer, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and aggravated use of a weapon by a felon.

Morgan’s brother, Eric Morgan, 19, who prosecutors said was driving the car French and the officers stopped, was arrested and charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon and one count of obstruction of justice, according to court records.

A still image of the body camera footage that captured the incident was obtained by ABC Chicago station WLS, along with another chilling image of French in her final moments — standing at the driver’s side door, shining a flashlight into the vehicle that had been pulled over for having expired tags.

During a news conference last week, Risa Lanier, the chief deputy state’s attorney for Cook County, said Emonte Morgan is seen in body camera video stepping over the wounded officers after allegedly shooting them.

French’s 39-year-old partner, whose name has not been released, remains in critical condition with a bullet lodged in his brain, police said.

The shooting came as Chicago police have been dealing with escalating gun violence in the city. Chicago Police Department crime statistics show that as of Sunday 2,176 people have been shot in 2021, a 12% increase over the same time period in 2020.

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