CHICAGO — Harith Augustus — a 37-year-old African-American barber and father of a 5-year-old — known by friends as Snoop, was shot down and killed by cops on busy East 71st Street on Chicago’s South Side after he left work July 14.
Almost immediately, people in the area began to protest. Nataki Rhodes, a waitress and organizer who lives a couple blocks from where Augustus was killed, told this correspondent that she got a call about the protest shortly after the shooting. When she got there, more than 100 people were demonstrating, demanding answers about what happened.
Some in the crowd threw things at the cops. They responded by hitting protesters with their nightsticks and pulling people down onto the street.
Nader Issa, a Chicago Sun-Times reporter, said he was hit by officers. “I have my press badge on and identified myself as a reporter,” Issa tweeted. In a video Issa posted online you can see him get shoved and the phone he was using to videotape the police assault is smacked out of his hand by a cop.
There is a long history of cop abuse in Chicago’s Black communities. From the notorious Jon Burge who extracted false confessions by torturing suspects from 1972 to 1991 to the 16 shots that killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, this history makes people suspicious about any cop shooting.
Because of the outcry and protest against the killing, the Chicago cops released a short video from one cop’s videocam of the shooting. In it the cops confront Augustus, and question him over a “bulge around his waistband.” There is no audio track of what is said.
Talking calmly with police who accost him, Augustus takes out his wallet, and appears to be pulling out his Illinois Firearm Owners’ ID card. Then three cops try to grab him, and he backs away into the street. His shirt goes up and you can see a holstered gun. He stumbles and his hand goes down by the holster. The cops shoot and he falls in the street. The medical examiner said later he died from “multiple gunshot wounds.”
The cops are refusing to release the “tons” of other videos and audio they say they have of the shooting, including some with audio. Protesters are demanding they be made public.
The cops have also refused to release the name of the officer who shot Augustus. Hundreds marched down Stony Island Avenue the next day, demanding the release of the other videos. A candlelight vigil and memorial for “Snoop” was held in front of the barbers where he worked, organized by co-workers and others in the community.
“We have heard the voices of many who have shared heartfelt and timely concerns in the form of protest, memorials and requests for accountability and full transparency,” Augustus’ family said in a statement two days later. “We are grateful for the support you continue to show as we grieve the loss of our son and brother, Harith Liu Augustus.”
Augustus’ killing was the third time in the last two weeks that a Chicago cop shot someone.