Posted on October 5, 2018

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke Convicted of Second-Degree Murder for Killing Laquan McDonald

Mark Guarino and Mark Berman, Washington Post, October 5, 2018

Jason Van Dyke, a white Chicago police officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder on Friday, nearly four years after he shot and killed Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old holding a knife.

The violent encounter sparked intense demonstrations across the city after authorities released a video recording showing Van Dyke firing 16 shots at McDonald, which eventually led to a sprawling federal investigation and helped force top officials from their jobs. {snip}

Van Dyke — who was also found guilty on 16 charges of aggravated battery, one for each shot fired at McDonald — has said he feared for his life. {snip} Jurors found Van Dyke not guilty of official misconduct.

This verdict marks the latest in the seemingly endless shock waves stemming from McDonald’s death and the subsequent release of the video, which continue to reverberate across the city and dominated the second term of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D).

After the footage was released in November 2015, Emanuel ousted his police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, who later said he was a fall guy and is now running for mayor. Voters then dismissed the prosecutor in the case, who waited a year to charge Van Dyke. {snip}

This trial has drawn particular scrutiny in part because of how rarely officers are charged for fatally shooting people on duty. Convictions are even less likely to follow, as officers have wide latitude under the law to use deadly force. In recent years, fatal shootings of civilians by police officers in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, North Charleston, S.C., and the Minneapolis area have spurred intense protests, followed by criminal charge, then by acquittals or deadlocked juries.

McDonald’s death in October 2014 — just weeks after a black teenager was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. — did not draw nationwide attention until, 13 months later, the court-ordered release of the police dash cam video. Authorities had initially said McDonald lunged at police officers, but the footage showed McDonald slowly walking down the middle of Pulaski Road before hitting the ground when he struck by Van Dyke’s bullets. The police department has recommended firing officers for lying about McDonald’s death, and three current or former officers were indicted last year on charges of conspiring to cover up what happened.


After the video’s released in November 2015 — on the same day Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder — protesters marched on downtown Chicago streets throughout Emanuel’s term. They gathered in front of the mayor’s home, on Lake Shore Drive and even on two lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway to call attention to police reform and what they charged was a coverup from city hall.


In a joint statement, activist Carl Dix and philosopher Cornel West called Van Dyke’s actions “illegitimate violence” that the trial “reinforced.”