On Tuesday night (Nov. 24), protests erupted in Chicago following the release of footage of the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In the dashboard camera clip, Officer Jason Van Dyke is seen delivering the 16 shots that killed McDonald on October 20, 2014. As the horrendous video made its way around the Web, citizens of the city took to the streets. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond.
McDonald’s death did not garner this level of national attention when the incident transpired last year. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez made her announcement of the charges against Van Dyke hours before the video’s release. Calling the clip "graphic,” “violent,” and “chilling," her decision to divulge the information came after she learned that the footage would be released to the public. She urged the city to refrain from violence in light of learning the tragedy’s details.
“No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful,” a statement read. “Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name, let his legacy be better than that.”
As Chicago reels at the death of McDonald, here are some facts you should know about the shooting.
On October 20, 2014, police were reportedly responding to a call that a man was spotted breaking into cars on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Laquan McDonald was halted by officers after running down the street holding a knife. Standing approximately 15 feet away from the 17-year-old, Office Van Dyke unleashed a barrage of bullets at McDonald. He also reportedly emptied his pistol, reloaded it and prepared to continue firing before being urged by his partner to cease fire. According to charging documents, the shooting lasted 13 seconds, and McDonald was hit 16 times. Van Dyke opened fire six seconds after exiting his vehicle.
Though a three-inch knife was procured from McDonald, he did not pose any immediate threats to the officers.
"None of the officers observed McDonald attempt to throw his knife at defendant (Van Dyke), jump or lunge toward Van Dyke, raise his knife as if to stab defendant, or did anything that was obviously threatening toward defendant beyond what was depicted in the video and not responding to commands while carrying a knife," documents read.
McDonald died in transit to Mount Sinai Hospital. [NY Daily News]
The autopsy report
An autopsy report by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, McDonald suffered gunshot wounds to the head, neck, chest, arms, and legs. Only two of the shots were delivered while he was still standing, the analysis concluded. The hallucinogenic drug PCP was also found in McDonald’s system. [Chicago Tribune]
Jason Van Dyke, 37, has a laundry list of complaints filed against him that he has never been disciplined for. According to a University of Chicago database, at least 18 have been made since 2001, eight of which include excessive force, with two involving the use of a firearm. He has also been accused of using racial slurs.
"We don't have all of Van Dyke's complaints but the complaints of, the misconduct complaints from Van Dyke that we do have in our data tool show by and large excessive force and racial slurs. And he has largely operated with impunity and under a code of silence with the same huddle of officers again and again," Alison Flowers of University of Chicago’s Invisible Institute said. [ABC 7 Chicago]
Charges against the officer
Charging documents filed against Van Dyke relay that the incident found the officer as only one of eight on the scene who saw the need to use force against McDonald. Citing the testimony of his partner and a witness (both unnamed), the dashcam footage accurately depicts McDonald’s death. Van Dyke faces “20 years to natural life” for the first-degree murder charge.
“It is the People’s position that Jason Van Dyke must be held mandatory No Bail in that he personally discharged a firearm that proximately caused the death of Laquan McDonald and that a possible sentence of life imprisonment could be imposed as a consequence of his conviction,” the document reads. [DNA Info]