Tuesday, November 24, marks the date that Cook County prosecutors in the state of Illinois saw fit to charge a Chicago police officer with first-degree murder for firing on a 17-year-old young man six seconds after leaving his squad car in October 2014. That young man’s name is Laquan McDonald, and he was walking in the opposite direction of the officer. That police officer’s name is Jason Van Dyke. Officer Van Dyke was filmed on a dash cam firing 16 shots into Laquan in 14 seconds and was reloading to fire again until a fellow officer told him to stop shooting. In the video, you witness McDonald walking in the middle of the street with a shiny item in his hand that appears to be a knife. He appears to be walking away from the officers while they had their guns drawn. Then officer Van Dyke opens fire on Laquan. The officer is currently being held in Cook County Jail without bail after a ruling by judge Donald Pavarese Jr. until the judge can view the video. It has been reported that Chicago police erased that night’s footage from a surveillance camera at a nearby Burger King.
The official police report claims McDonald, who allegedly had PCP in his system, lunged at officer Van Dyke and his partner with a 3-inch folding knife. The report stated that officer Van Dyke feared for his life and had no other choice but to use deadly force to protect himself. Illinois state prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who announced the official charges, saw a different story on the video footage. Her exact words regarding the shooting was “without legal justification and with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm”. With a ruling, less than a week of permitting the release of this graphic footage, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago is meeting with religious and community leaders pleading for peaceful protest and sharing his disappointment in the actions of officer Van Dyke. The city has also awarded the McDonald family a $5 million settlement without a civil suit being filed.
This is a case that will stir up many emotions in the law enforcement and civilian communities alike. Chicago now has many new challenges to handle and questions to answer with Monday’s release of the official dash cam footage. With Mayor Emmanuel himself calling this a violation of public trust, he has much fallout to handle before the trial starts and the final verdict is handed down.
Click here to view the video of Laquan McDonald’s killing (warning: it is very graphic).