In October 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke. The shooting, which further deepened the divide between the African-American community and law enforcement, initially didn’t gain much attention outside of Chicago, until 13 months later when a judge ordered the release of the grainy dashcam footage.
Protests began immediately with many calling for justice.
On Tuesday (Sept. 4) McDonald’s family gathered outside of Chicago’s Grace Memorial Baptist Church and begged the public to remain peaceful, regardless of the outcome of Van Dyke’s trial.
“We don’t want any violence before, during or after … the verdict in this trial,” Rev. Martin Hunter said on behalf of the family. “Give the judge a chance to do his job, give a jury a chance to do their job.”
Van Dyke, a white man, said he wouldn’t have shot at the African-American teen had he not felt his life or someone else’s was in danger. During the shooting, Van Dyke alleged McDonald lunged at him “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner.”
Dashcam footage, however, showed McDonald still being fired upon despite already being on the ground.
Jury selection began Wednesday (Sept. 5) for the case. Van Dyke faces six counts for first-degree murder and six counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and official misconduct. According to CNN, Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be charged with first-degree murder since 1980.
During an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke expressed remorse over killing McDonald but also fear about potential life in prison.
“I might be looking at the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job as I was trained as a Chicago police officer,” he said.