Laquan McDonald should be alive today. However, the 17-year-old boy was shot and killed within Chicago‘s Southwest Side back in October of last year. Today, justice for the McDonald family has emerged as white veteran Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.
Officer Van Dyke turned himself in and will appear in bond court this afternoon in Chicago. He is said to be the lead officer who fired 16 rounds into the boy according to lawyers for the McDonald family. In a case that has stirred emotions and ignited speculation, dash-cam video evidence of McDonald’s death was held by the Chicago Police Department perhaps in a bid to protect its own.
The McDonald family lawyers add that McDonald was already down by the initial shots, but Van Dyke continued his violent assault. Police say McDonald was high on PCP while brandishing a 4-inch folding knife, and explained Van Dyke’s use of force as necessary because the officer feared for his life after McDonald allegedly attached he and his partner.
The 37-year-old Van Dyke has remained employed by the CPD since October 2014 after the shooting but was relegated to desk duty. According to the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer charged for an on-duty death in almost 35 years. He was also the only officer on the scene to fire his weapon.
Last week, a Cook County judge announced that the video footage of the shooting will go public after a journalist requested the material via the Freedom of Information Act. The CPD and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have banded together to stop the release of the video to no avail. It will be released Wednesday (Nov. 25) as ordered, and has city officials on edge regarding the reaction to the footage.
If convicted, Van Dyke faces a minimum of 20 years in prison for gunning down McDonald. The city awarded $5 million to the family earlier this year after they were considering launching a wrongful death lawsuit.
Until the video is released, which will unbearable for most to watch, Van Dyke’s actions remain a mystery.
If he and his fellow officers outnumbered a suspect simply armed with a small knife despite his supposed drug influence, wasn’t there another way to take McDonald down? Or perhaps this another case where a white police officer perceives a Black child as a threat while clearly having the upper hand and decides to take a life.