As a harrowing video of Chicago Police conducting an erroneous home raid circulated around the country yesterday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot evaded questions about why her administration had attempted to prevent the bodycam footage from being released.
At the center of the video is Anjanette Young, a 50-year-old clinical social worker who had just gotten off work and was undressing when Chicago police officers barged into her home in February 2019, searching for a felon they believed possessed firearms.
Young, who lived alone in her apartment, was immediately handcuffed as she stood in her living room, distraught and naked, watching police turn over her home without answering why they were there. Despite pleading with officers for answers—and for a chance to get dressed—cops didn’t allow Young to put on clothes for 13 minutes into the raid.
Young had been seeking bodycam footage of the traumatic detainment for nearly two years, filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that was denied by CPD. As CBS 2 reports, a judge eventually forced the department to turn over video of the arrest as part of her lawsuit against the agency.
But according to HuffPost and CBS 2, Lightfoot’s lawyers filed an emergency motion in federal court to prevent the local Chicago news station from airing bodycam footage of the raid. The lawyers also accused Young of sharing the video with CBS 2. Because she violated a confidentiality order, city lawyers argued that Young ought to be punished.
They claimed the footage would give viewers “an inaccurate picture of what happened during the subject search warrant.”
“In open court, Defense Counsel specifically outlined concerns that this video would be shared with the media in a salacious and unfair manner designed to elicit a reactionary response, which carries the risk of poisoning the public’s view of the case,” lawyers representing the city argued in their court filing.
Lightfoot attempted to create distance between her administration and CPD’s actions on February 2019, noting that the raid took place before she was elected to office on April 2.
When the mayor was asked directly why her lawyers attempted to prevent the footage from being broadcast, Lightfoot didn’t give a direct answer. Nor did she acknowledge that she was already in office when CPD initially denied FOIA requests made by both Young and CBS 2.
Instead, Lightfoot tried to shift focus to new protocols that CPD has to follow with regard to search warrants, enacted during her administration.
“Because of the concern that we saw and was expressed, we changed the protocols for search warrants,” Lightfoot said. “It requires now two supervisors, it requires a pre-check of the location. And I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that we’ve solved every problem.” (A CBS 2 investigation found that erroneous raids have continued even after the department changed its policies.)
Lightfoot also offered sympathy to Young, in lieu of concrete answers about her involvement in the case.
“I watched that video and I put myself in that poor woman’s place,” Lightfoot said. “And thinking about somebody breaking into your home, you have no idea who they are, in the middle of the night and with a child, and the trauma that that causes. So, I think we have taken steps to address that issue.”
The mayor’s office followed up with a written statement released late Tuesday night claiming Lightfoot was only made aware of the CPD invasion into Young’s home on Tuesday.
“Today, I became aware of an incident involving Ms. Anjanette Young from February 2019, before I became Mayor, and I saw a video today for the first time. I had no knowledge of either until today. I had a very emotional reaction to what was depicted on the video as I imagine that many people did,” the statement read.
The mayor said she had directed an investigation of how the incident was handled by “various City departments.”
“Since this matter is the subject of litigation and an open COPA [Civilian Office of Police Accountability] investigation, I will have no further comment,” the statement concluded.
Outside of City Hall, Young received statements of support from people all over the country, including the advocacy group Social Service Workers United-Chicago.
“Social workers are trained to have unconditional positive regard for clients,” the group tweeted yesterday. “CPD’s behavior would not have been justified if they had violently raided the ‘right’ home, because everyone, regardless of what they are accused of, is entitled to constitutional due process.”
A GoFundMe, organized by writer and University of Chicago professor Eve Ewing, went live yesterday with the goal of raising $30,000 for the Progressive Baptist Church’s Social Justice Ministry, of which Young is a part. The ministry “provides legal assistance and support to Chicagoans facing situations similar to her own,” Ewing wrote.
In interviews about the raid, Young made clear that the trauma of that night still lives with her. Throughout the search, Young feared for her life, telling CBS 2, “I truly believe [police] would have shot me.”
“I mean, I felt so violated,” Young said. “Here is this man who is walking up to me and putting me in handcuffs, and I have no clothes on. And I’m just standing there terrified, humiliated, and not even understanding why in that moment this is happening to me.”