The fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has the city of Chicago on edge after footage of the incident was released earlier this week. See video above. Though viewer discretion is advised.
The dash cam video, recorded last October, shows McDonald being shot by Jason Van Dyke, 37 of the Chicago Police Department.
Officer Van Dyke fires 16 shots in 15 seconds as the teen walks up the street, carrying a 3-inch knife with PCP in his system. Van Dyke was arrested on Tuesday. He turned himself in. He now faces a charge of first-degree murder.
According to Daniel Q. Herbert, the attorney for Van Dyke, the shooting was justified because his client “truly was in fear for his life, as well as the lives of his fellow officers.”
“Video by nature is two-dimensional and it distorts images,” Herbert told CNN, claiming Van Dyke has given him a better sense of his own perspective at the time. “So what appears to be clear on a video sometimes is not always that clear.”
At least a hundred protesters took to the streets following the video’s release. Some complained about the length of time it took for the city to prosecute Van Dyke. Others griped about the ostensible use of excessive force by law enforcement.
“Unfortunately, this has been a persistent problem in terms of excessive force being used by police and the murder of black people with impunity by the police,” said protestor Jay Travis, a resident of Chicago’s South Side, in an interview with CNN. “So we’re out here for love of our city. We’re out here pushing for change.”
Most of the protests have been peaceful — so far. Meanwhile, city leaders have condemned the actions of Van Dyke.
“Across Chicago there are thousands of police officers who protect our communities every day with the highest professional standards,” said mayor Rahm Emanuel. “As the State’s Attorney made clear, Jason Van Dyke’s actions violated those standards and also the moral standards that bind our community together.”
“Rather than uphold the law, he took the law into his own hands and it’s now up to the justice system to hold him accountable,” continued Emanuel. “But his actions are in no way a reflection of the dedication and professionalism that our police officers exemplify every day and that our residents expect throughout the city.”
The charges against Van Dyke:
I haven’t really examined the case enough to make an informed decision about whether the shooting was justified. I know that there are a lot of talking points out there depending on which news outlet you frequent. For instance, Van Dyke was the only cop to fire at McDonald, despite the fact that others were present. Does this mean he overrated? There were rumblings that some footage had been deleted by his fellow officers? Is that really the case? On the other side of it, McDonald did have an “extensive juvenile record,” according to The Chicago Tribune. He was on drugs. He did have a weapon. Given his proximity to Van Dyke, is it reasonable to assume McDonald could have closed the distance and stabbed the officer?
Long story short, I’m not going to play armchair quarterback on this shooting. I think I want to see how the dust settles before I render judgement. In the meantime, I’ll put my faith in the Chicago court system (however dubious a proposition that might be). Hopefully, the system gets it right and justice is served. I also hope that as the case plays out, the protesters act civilly and don’t do anything stupid. But I won’t hold my breath.
That said, for those of you who have read more of the evidence and have closely examined the video, what are your thoughts on the shooting? Did Van Dyke act reasonably? Or was he too quick to pull the trigger?