Lawsuit: Police pressured Laquan McDonald shooting witness

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
CHICAGO (WLS) -- An eyewitness to the police shooting of Laquan McDonald claims Chicago police officers pressured her; worked her over in the police station and told her and other witnesses to change the story of what they saw.

A complaint filed in federal court raises new questions about the police investigation of a case that resulted in heated protests and a federal investigation of the department.

Nearly two years ago on October 20, 2014, 17-year-old McDonald, armed with a small knife, was chased by Chicago police and was shot 16 times and killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Alma Benitez was at a Burger King near the line of fire.

In an interview on the scene shortly after the police shooting, she described in vivid details what she saw.

"The guy wasn't running fast at all, he was running really slow. He was trying to pull his pants up. He was holding his pants, as he was running he was trying to pull his pants up and after that, I just saw him when he just stood there and next thing you know they just shot at him," she said.

During the interview, Chicago police can be seen within earshot. A short time later they took Benitez to area central headquarters were she was held as a witness for six hours and repeatedly questioned.

According to the new federal lawsuit, Benitez said, "Chicago police officers told her that her account of what she witnessed was "not what really happened," or words to that effect. The complaint states that "Chicago police officers pressured her to retract and/or forget what she witnessed."

What police allegedly wanted her to forget may have been what she told a news camera right after the shooting.

"They basically had him face-to-face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him," she said.

The federal complaint repeatedly cites a police "code of silence" that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and others have admitted exists.

She claims the misconduct and unconstitutional acts against her caused a loss of "physical liberty and emotional distress" and wants the city to pay her an unspecified amount in monetary damages.

Van Dyke is facing first degree murder charges in the case and a grand jury will consider whether other police officers and officials tried to cover-up what happened.

The mayor's office did not provide a response to the allegations being made by

Benitez and neither she nor her attorney agreed to interviews with ABC 7.

The lawsuit also alleges that after police saw Benitez trying to record the shooting on her cellphone, they tried to "view, extract and/or remove" that recording from her phone.

Click here to read the lawsuit documents.
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