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Chicago Cop Charged with Fatally Shooting African American Teen 16 Times

Norman Parish | 11/25/2015, 1:23 p.m.
A white Chicago Police Officer was charged Tuesday with murdering a 17-year-old black youth – believed to be the first ...
Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged Tuesday with murdering a 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

A white Chicago Police Officer was charged Tuesday with murdering a 17-year-old black youth – believed to be the first on-duty city officer charged with murder in more than three decades.

Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke was accused of shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times on Chicago’s Southwest Side in October 2014.

“The officer’s actions were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez at a news conference.

Van Dyke, 37, who turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday morning, was ordered held without bond. The officer faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted.

After Van Dyke’s bond hearing, his lawyer, Daniel Herbert, told reporters, “despite what you heard in that courtroom, this is not a murder case.”

Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times on Chicago's Southwest Side in October, 2014. Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke is charged in the case.

Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times on Chicago's Southwest Side in October, 2014. Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke is charged in the case.

The first-degree murder charge was announced just a day before Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered a deadline of when the videotape of the shooting must be released.

In a dash-cam video, Van Dyke is shown jumping out of his squad car and repeatedly shooting McDonald, according to lawyers for McDonald’s family.

Even after McDonald was on the ground, Van Dyke continued to fire his gun, officials said.

But police said McDonald was erratic and refused commands to drop a 3-inch knife. The police union also said that the officer feared for his life because McDonald allegedly lunged at him. He had PCP in his system, they added.

None of the other eight officers at the scene fired a shot.

Alvarez said citizens witnessed the incident. At least one witness told authorities he never saw McDonald lunge at officers.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who met with black community leaders on Monday, also criticized the shooting. He and several black leaders also called for calm.

On Saturday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. told reporters he was “hoping for a “police shapeup from top to bottom” after the release of the video.

Alvarez said the dash-cam video was “graphic,” “violent” and chilling,” and “no doubt will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

Marian Perkins, a former Cook County prosecutor, said she believes that judge Valderrama’s decision influenced Alvarez to charge the officer.

“This has been going on for a long time,” said Perkins, who chairs the criminal justice, political science and philosophy department at Chicago State University. “The tape puts great amount of pressure for an indictment. I also applaud the judge.”

But Alvarez said she wasn’t pressured to make the charges against the officer.

At the same time, Alvarez said the murder charge comes “in interests of public safety” and to assure the public those officials “are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands.”

Last week, judge Valderrama ordered Chicago Police to make public by today the dashboard video of the shooting.

Judge Valderrama denied the city’s request that the release of the video be delayed until the appellate court rules on the city appeal of the decision.

The city had argued against releasing the video given an ongoing federal investigation of the shooting.

Mayor Emanuel said the city would not appeal the ruling.

“Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents,” Emanuel said. “In this case unfortunately, it appears an officer violated the trust at every level. As a result, the city’s Independent Police Review Authority promptly sent this case and the evidence to state and federal prosecutors who have been investigating it for almost a year.”

Lawyers for McDonald’s family won a $5 million settlement from the city even before filing a lawsuit.