Chicago braces for violence after verdict in trial of cop who killed unarmed black teen
The trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke has gone to the jury, and the city is bracing for violence, not matter what the verdict.
Van Dyke is on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teen who was confronted by police on October 24, 2014. That confrontation resulted in Officer Van Dyke putting 16 bullets in the body of McDonald, who was carrying a small, folded knife at the time of his death.
The original police report called it a justified shooting. But more than a year later, a dash cam video of the incident was finally released showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald nine times in the back while he was lying on the ground.
Three other officers so far have been charged with an attempt to cover up the shooting.
The trial went to the sequestered jury yesterday, and Chicago police are bracing for violent demonstrations.
Meanwhile alternate jurors who were excused from the Van Dyke trial Thursday said they leaned towards a murder conviction.
"I would say guilty," one alternate said when asked which way they were leaning. "He should have waited longer. I mean, he knew the Taser was coming. That's what did it for me."
"Where was he actually causing an issue that, you know, Jason Van Dyke thought that he needed to use deadly force?" the other alternate juror said. "I just don't understand that."
When attorneys and Van Dyke were called back to court for the jury question Thursday, Van Dyke broke down before the judge, explaining he was late returning to court because his child was being threatened.
The judge said he wants information Friday about the threat and if it was credible or else he's thinking of revoking bail for an unexcused absence.
Van Dyke is charged with first degree murder, official misconduct, and 16 counts of aggravated battery. The jury can also consider second degree murder.
This is a cover-up that went all the way to the mayor's office. It's clear that city leaders knew that the explosive evidence on the dash cam video would cause the city to erupt in violence, which is exactly what happened when it was finally released in November 2015. A grand jury is still deliberating whether to charge other officers in the cover-up, which included the destruction of evidence and falsifying reports.
Van Dyke is guilty, but of what? That he shot McDonald while he was prone on the ground is not in dispute. The evidence of "intent" is thin. But it's clear from the alternate jurors' statements that it was a hard sell for the defense to convince the jury that Van Dyke was in fear for his life. Given the politics of this case, he will probably be convicted of first-degree murder, but does he really deserve that?
The bottom line is that Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran, should never have been issued a badge and gun. There were at least 20 citizen complaints against him since 2001. Not every cop is a hero, nor is every cop cut out to be a policeman. Whether by temperament or mental stability, Van Dyke did not have what it takes to walk the mean streets of Chicago.
As the prosecutor said in his excellent closing statement, "someone needed to arrest Laquan McDonald, not stop him with a hail of gunfire."