Chicago, IL — The officer who shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy in Chicago will finally be going to trial for his crimes this week. Officer Jason Van Dyke is scheduled to go on trial in a Cook County, Illinois, courtroom on Monday for the murder of Laquan McDonald. He also is charged with aggravated battery and official misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty.
Van Dyke claims to have feared for his life that fateful night as the unarmed teen walked slowly down the street. However, the video of the incident was so damning that the cop was actually charged.
Surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, McDonald, was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense.
But according to witness statements and police dashcam video, McDonald was walking away when Van Dyke opened fire. After McDonald had collapsed to the ground in a near-fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer had to order him to cease firing at the dying teen.
McDonald’s autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot him 16 times, including two bullets in the back, seven in his arms, two in his right leg, once on each side of his chest, and single bullets wounds to his right hand, scalp, and neck. Nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward trajectory. None of the five other officers at the scene fired their weapons.
Before McDonald’s family could even file a lawsuit, the city gave them a $5 million settlement on the condition that the family agreed not to publicly release the dashcam footage of the teen’s death. After suppressing the video for 13 months, the city received a court order to release the footage. The city released the dashcam video in 2015, which clearly shows McDonald did not lunge at the officers before the fatal shooting.
In May of 2015, Burger King district manager Jay Darshane accused officers of deleting the security footage after spending over three hours in the fast food restaurant on the night of the shooting. According to Darshane, the video equipment was working properly, but 86 minutes of footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., disappeared after the officers left.
Charged with first-degree murder, Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57 p.m. When asked if he was certain that the officers deleted the footage of the killing, Darshane answered, “Yes.”
Although 86 minutes of the surveillance video have gone missing, including the moment that McDonald was gunned down, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claims no one tampered with the footage.
“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”
Unable to clearly explain why the 86 minutes disappeared, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy blamed the missing files on technical difficulties. At a press conference, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez asserted that no one had tampered with the Burger King surveillance video. When asked who conducted the forensic testing, Alvarez did not appear to know the answer.
Alvarez responded, “That’s all I’m going to say on this.”
Although the police department and state’s attorney claim the officers did not delete those 86 missing minutes, remember that this information is coming from the same cops who initially lied about the shooting and the same officials who suppressed the police dashcam video for 13 months.
Below is the original news segment showing the officer sitting at the surveillance computer for several minutes.
The death of Laquan McDonald has been the impetus behind police reform across the country as well as in Chicago. Following the controversy surrounding his death the city of Chicago was forced to release years of police brutality videos, showing the horrifying abuse of the city’s citizens by their ostensible protectors.
Hopefully, for the sake of McDonald as well as the countless other victims of the Chicago police department, Van Dyke is held accountable.