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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Shooting Video Released, as Officer Jailed for the Holiday

CHICAGO (CN) - With a judge having ordered the video's release, and the police officer in question charged with murder, Chicago officials released footage Tuesday of the fatal shooting of a black teenager last year.

Filmed by a police cruiser's dashboard camera, the grainy video shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking down the middle of the street on Oct. 20, 2014, away from the dash-cam-powered police cruiser, and parallel to another police SUV.

McDonald is not walking toward the white officer, Jason Van Dyke, standing several yards away beside the SUV, when Van Dyke fires his weapon.

Though the footage shows McDonald drop to the ground at the first bullet, Van Dyke fires 15 more rounds. The video then shows another officer run up to the body and kick something - possibly a knife - out of McDonald's hand.

There is no audio attached to the video.

According to media reports, police were called to Archer Heights, a neighborhood in southwest Chicago, on the night of the incident to investigate reports that a man with a knife was trying to break into vehicles.

The police said McDonald tried to walk away when police approached him. McDonald is said to have pounded on the windshield of a squad car and punctured its front tire.

Investigators contend that McDonald had PCP in his system at the time of the incident, that officers told him to drop his knife, and that he lunged at them instead.

A witness told John Kass of the Chicago Tribune a different story, saying McDonald "wasn't attacking anybody."

"He was looking for a way out," the witness said. "He was just trying to turn away. The kid turned away, was dropped at the first shot or two, and the police kept shooting and shooting."

Chicago made the rare decision to settle with McDonald's family before they could bring a lawsuit over the teen's death. It paid McDonald's family $5 million in April.

A freelance reporter nevertheless filed suit four months later to have the dash-cam footage made public.

McDonald's family opposed a public release of the video, but Cook County's Associate Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the city last week to produce the video by Thanksgiving Eve.

Chicago had long fought the tape's release but opted not to appeal Valderrama's ruling.

"Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said last week after the ruling. "In this case, unfortunately, it appears an officer violated that trust at every level."

The city released the footage late Tuesday, hours after Van Dyke was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in connection to McDonald's death.

Though officials prepared for unrest in conjunction with the video's release, protests remained peaceful throughout the evening. Approximately 300 people marched in a demonstration downtown, and police reported a small handful of arrests.

Van Dyke has already turned himself in to authorities, and Judge Donald Panarese Jr. temporarily denied the officer bond Tuesday afternoon, giving the court time to view the video.

Set to spend Thanksgiving in jail, Van Dyke's next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30.

Dan Herbert, the attorney representing Van Dyke, emphasized that his client is a 14-year member of the force, and was justified in the shooting because he feared for his life.

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