Chicago on Edge Over Footage Showing Fatal Police Shooting

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:

Proffer in Jason Van Dyke case

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?

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Will B November 30, 2015, 12:52 am

    I did not read every comment here, but I have seen “10 feet” mentioned several times. Before I even get to that, we start with a man not walking, but running directly towards a police car while armed with a knife. So, we don’t get the pleasure of hearing the “unarmed” man garbage this time, instead we get to hear how far away the knife wielding maniac was from officers, after he had chosen to break the law and run towards them. He chose not to surrender, not to drop the knife, not to run away as officers approached. Instead, he chose to proceed directly toward them. This person chose his own fate, period. Yes, officers risk the possibility of being injured or killed on the job, but they are not required to be killed, or to wait to find out if they will be killed, before they defend themselves. This continued attack on police officer’s actions, with either little or no mention of what the criminal did to cause themselves to be injured or killed, is sickening. For at least the last 20 years, 21 feet has been the reactionary gap in police training. If this guy was within 10 feet, regardless of which way he was facing, he would be able to close the distance and plunge that knife into the officer in about one second. At 21 feet, about two seconds. The public is asking law enforcement to wait until they are either shot or have knife hanging out of their throat before they take action. What we don’t hear much from the activists are them pleading with others to follow commands of police officers, or maybe to stop committing criminal acts all together. How many of these shootings did not involve a crime? No crime, the police don’t come. If you choose to be a criminal and get caught, surrender. Very simple. But once again we hear the race card. “We are out hear pushing for a change” said Jay Travis. Start with yourselves Jay, stop committing the crimes that are the underlying factor in every single case you are protesting about, and I just bet that incidents like this would extremely less likely to occur.

    • Claude Duncan December 4, 2015, 4:23 pm

      Will it is apparent you never watch the video very good, the guy never did go towards the police officers if he had all of them would of shot. They are not required to be killed, but they are not justified in killing if there is no threat on their life which there was not at the moment this cop open fire. There was 5 other good law enforcement officer there to stop the threat if the guy did turn on them, but not being trigger happy as this one cop, they followed the law on deadly force.
      Just answer this for me, Would a Law Abiding concealed carry citizen of gone to jail on the spot not a year later for doing the same thing as this officer? There will always be 2 standards one for law enforcement and one for law abiding citizens which is a much higher standard. God bless our true law enforcement officers but there was only 5 true officer and one criminal just as the guy he shot. No one should be able to kill just because some one is on drugs if there is no threat towards you or some other innocent. Sir I am a Utah concealed firearms instructor and would never tell someone to shoot in this situation because I know they would of went to jail, then to prison. I thank you for your comments and again thanks to God for our true law enforcement officers. Does not matter what job it is, if humans are involved you have good and bad. The Tueller drill is always part of my classes. Maybe you seen something in the video that I didn’t so thank you for standing with your view. I do not judge anyone but I do discern on what I can see with the information at the time. Thanks again

  • Dillon November 29, 2015, 9:18 am

    I dont disagree that the first shot was justified, i dont believe it should have been lethal. Disable the threat, take out a leg or something to disable the perp. I believe its more the states fault for not having a budget and equipping their law enforcement with less than lethal options such as tazers or rubber slugs. The problem ive seen with law enforcement in the last 10 years is they are beginning to think more with their trigger fingers. Ive done the police academy, the physical fitness, and ive seen some officers get passed thru that couldnt pass the fitness exam. The officers today will avoid hand to hand like the plague. Ill take some gruff for this but ive seen first hand, drug loaded, very large male, dropped with a rubber slug to the chest and disarmed by a second officer and apprehended. While the person in the video was obviously going away from LE, i can honestly say i wouldnt be able to make the lethal shot unless i knew i had no other choice. If it took this long for the true evidence to come out, the agency knew there was issues with justification. And on the side note of CPL holders getting it lighter than LE…my state gives a 7ft rule. If the threat is within 7ft when you pull the trigger and the shots enter the front of their body, youre justified. If there are any bullets entering at a side angle or the back, you are definitely going to jail and paying out of pocket expenses until court decides. 7ft is tough facing an attacker, IMHO alot tought than “10ft” with the attacker moving away from you.

  • George November 28, 2015, 11:37 pm

    Unfortunately Lee, the officer did not know at the time that the suspect was on PCP. As you should know, the basis of a ‘reasonable officer’ standard is that which was known to the officer AT THE TIME of the event. Its why 20/20 hindsight is not allowed and neither can the excuse that he was on PCP be allowed to stand. I would also argue that while the first volley of shots is justifiable, others, fired deliberately over the space of 14 to 18 seconds are simply not. If he had a firearm and was still attempting to bring it to bear then I would have a different opinion.

    FYI, the face eating guy wasn’t on PCP: there was a suspicion he was on Alpha PVP or bath salts but tox only revealed marijuana.Its possible he was on Alpha PVP because most labs can’t test for it but he was most certainly not on PCP. I’m a DRE and such cases interest me….. 😉

  • Lee November 27, 2015, 11:59 am

    Put it into perspective. You have an individual on PCP with a weapon out. He is not complying with officers. What are you supposed to do. For the idiots out there who say pepper spray or taze him, I just said he was on PCP, which makes him immune to all pain reception. For those who don’t understand the devastation and deadliness of a knife with a 3″ blade, spend five minutes and do a search on google or youtube. Also look up the tuller rule. One cut with that blade to an artery and it wouldn’t matter if a surgeon was on sight, an officer or bystander would die.

    Soooooo…. what option is there. Follow the perp all day until he does something to justify him getting shot, or shoot him before he does something? Thats pretty much the options.

    This shooting was 100% justified, and if you don’t understand shooting someone multiple times, that is because they are on PCP, you shoot them until they are no longer functional, because on PCP they are a threat as long as they are moving. There has been more than just the one publicized incident of someone on PCP eating another mans face off…

    The problem isn’t the officers or use of force law. The problem is lack of understanding, and false perception presented by the media. The Black Rights groups of today are not the rights groups of the 60’s fighting for equal rights. These are people who think everyone else doesn’t matter but themselves. They are money hungry organizations who prey on idiots and hype anything they can to get attention, because that gets them money. Not a single one of those protesters gave a crap about Mr. McDonald… All they care about is money. And because of the hype they generate we will all suffer and our streets will be more dangerous.

    • George November 28, 2015, 4:21 pm

      Unfortunately Lee, the officer did not know at the time that the suspect was on PCP. As you should know, the basis of a ‘reasonable officer’ standard is that which was known to the officer AT THE TIME of the event. Its why 20/20 hindsight is not allowed and neither can the excuse that he was on PCP be allowed to stand. I would also argue that while the first volley of shots is justifiable, others, fired deliberately over the space of 14 to 18 seconds are simply not. If he had a firearm and was still attempting to bring it to bear then I would have a different opinion.

      FYI, the face eating guy wasn’t on PCP: there was a suspicion he was on Alpha PVP or bath salts but tox only revealed marijuana.Its possible he was on Alpha PVP because most labs can’t test for it but he was most certainly not on PCP. I’m a DRE and such cases interest me….. 🙂

  • Libertarian November 27, 2015, 10:26 am

    I believe we need to stop the “trial by media” that invariably happens with these incidents. That said, far too many police are far too quick on the trigger, but we cannot make judgments and conclusions based on what the MSM gives us for “coverage” – what we see as “news” is heavily scripted, edited, and controlled for political purposes, and media companies working to influence public perception and opinion and are hell-bent on “social engineering.” Let those with the full, ACTUAL story make the judgments that must be made.

  • Lancer4704 November 27, 2015, 9:44 am

    We have seen a whole lot of publicity from the media over the last several years about shootings, and so called bad actions by officers. One thing that I have noticed about the bulk of what I have seen; they are people involved in some time of criminal activity that do not believe they should listen to the commands of the officers. Ultimately both the office and the perpetrator pay the price. If they just listened to the commands of the officers, the outcome would most likely be dramatically different.
    Parents today don’t think they need to reprimand their children. Children grow up to be adults that don’t think they have to listen to anybody, and can do anything they want without consequences! After all, it’s a free country; right? People seem to want to defend the criminals simply based on the outcome of them being on the loosing end of the activities that the criminal themselves instigated. They seem to go from criminal activist, to martyr for a racist cause in an instant. Suddenly the public forgets that they were involved in criminal activity. Were the actions of the law enforcement extreme? Probably, but should we forget that it would not have happened if the so called victim was not involved in criminal activity, or did not comply with requests of law enforcement activities?

  • George November 27, 2015, 9:05 am

    I’m a police officer. I’ve faced people with knives and seen the damage a knife wound can inflict in no time flat. I personally and professionally think that initial shots are justified based on the report in its entirety. A person with a knife, who was reportedly stealing items from vehicles, has slashed a tire on a police unit and is still at large with the knife in hand, refusing commands to drop same who is ten feet from the officer poses a potentially lethal threat. The three critera for the use of deadly force; ability, opportunity and immediate jeopardy were certainly apparent and applicable.

    However, continuing to shoot the individual once they are on the ground beyond say a couple of seconds, is troubling and hard to defend. Why might you ask is it reasonable for the officer to continue to fire for 2 or 3 seconds after the individual falls to the ground? Simply because there is a substantial body of scientific evidence out there which clearly indicates that it is just about physically impossible for a human to stop firing a weapon once the action has commenced. Think of it as you would if you were driving; everyone is familiar with the delay in observing an accident, processing the information in your brain that you need to apply the brake then your brain actually applying the brakes.

    It is the same process in a deadly force incident. Officer or citizen sees the threat, assesses the need to use deadly force, brings the weapon on target, shoots then the brain again assesses the reaction to the shots and either continues to shoot or instructs the trigger finger to cease pressing the trigger. In some instances, the initial firing reaction results in multiple rounds being fired and it is not uncommon to have as many as a full magazine fired before the initial assessment is made. Its because people are scared and when you are scared, some people trigger round after round to stop the threat. No-one can argue with that reaction because what counts is what a reasonable officer at the time of the incident would do.

    In this case, it seems the officer continues to fire over an extended period of time, while the individual is on the ground and with some great amount of deliberation due to the accuracy of his shots. I think it is going to be an extremely hard sell to a jury that the officer felt that the suspect posed a continuing deadly threat to himself or others. The simplest question to ask is: did the suspect, after being shot several times, now laid on the floor, have the ability and the opportunity to present an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm by the use of the knife he was still holding? I don’t think he does and I think that is what will see this officer incarcerated for most of the rest of his life.

    • Claude Duncan November 27, 2015, 12:03 pm

      You may be police officer, but the first few shots was not justified. Police should have to go by the same standards as the law abiding citizens when it come to deadly force. The standard for law abiding citizens is much higher than that for law enforcement. Law enforcement job don’t even make it in the top 20 of most dangerous jobs, yet they say police put their lives on the line every day BULL. I respect our true Law Enforcement God Bless them, but they are human, you have good and bad in the department. 90 % of police go through their jobs without ever having to pull their guns. You do have some police just like law abiding concealed carry citizens just etching to pull the trigger when it is not justified. Even though we might disagree on the first shots, Thank you sir for your service.

      • George November 28, 2015, 3:23 pm

        First, we must analyze why I think the first shots are justified: police have been dispatched to an individual who is reportedly breaking into vehicles and stealing items. He is further described as fleeing from police and then is reported to be carrying a knife. Reports are received that the suspect has now used the knife to slash a tire on a police vehicle and is actively fleeing the scene, still carrying the knife in his hand. He is also reported to be “out of it” and looks to be under the influence of some drug. Officers arrive, give multiple commands for him to drop the knife and he does not. At this point, he is 10 feet from the officers and attempting to leave the scene, posing a continuing and imminent potential threat to the community. A reasonably fit young man such as this can easily cover 10 feet in under a second if he so chose to do so.

        The suspect has now fulfilled the three criteria for the justified use of deadly force: he has the ability (knife is in his hand) he has the opportunity (close proximity to officers) and immediate jeopardy (proven determination to both inflict damage with the knife and evade capture) so the initial shots are most certainly defensible and justifiable under current rulings from the Supreme Court and other appellant courts. I am not necessarily saying that I or other officers, in the same situation may have shot the individual but it was certainly justifiable under the LAW. The rest of the shots? Not at all IMHO.

        CCW holders are not held to a higher standard; if anything, it is my experience that they are given more leniency because they do not go through the rigorous instruction and practice than many peace officers do. Depending on the jurisdiction, CCW holders or armed citizens frequently walk away from deadly force encounters with little consequence to their liberty or their pocketbook. The peace officer in the same situation often endures months, if not YEARS of uncertainty, even if the shooting is ruled justifiable. Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO was cleared by not only one of the most exhaustive grand jury hearings but also by the DOJ yet his life and career is in ruins. He did nothing wrong other than shoot a dangerous thug who tried to disarm and kill him. George Zimmerman went through the same thing but he, as a private citizen, is the exception rather than the rule as applied to peace officers.

        Let me address the “cop work isn’t even dangerous” comment. While it is most certainly true that police work isn’t on the list of the 20 most dangerous jobs in America, there is a huge difference between many of those occupations and what I and my colleagues do. Sure, being a logger or a crab fisherman in AK is dangerous BUT and its a big BUT, their risks are predictable and therefore, largely preventable. Icy deck? Break up the ice and use de-icer. Risk of falling over board? Ensure you’re wearing your survival suit and have a rope attached to a safety harness and so on. What makes my job different is the sheer unpredictability of the threat. I have NO idea if the vehicle I am about to stop on suspicion of DWI will contain a man who will shoot me in the head with a shotgun because he doesn’t want to go to jail today.

        Or if while I am investigating a report of domestic violence, one of the parties will decide that they don’t want the other to go to jail and stab or shoot me. FBI statistics reveal that over 40,000 peace officers are injured every year as a result of attacks on them by suspects. This isn’t a complete list because not all agencies report their figures to the FBI and those figures don’t include all the attacks, just the ones where injuries occur. The unpredictability of the threat to my life is what makes police work dangerous; there are many officers who go over a decade with no serious injuries, only to be shot or murdered from ambush, not because of who they are but because of what they represent and the uniform they wear.

        I truly love my profession, I do it willingly and try to serve my community by incarcerating those who would prey on others while upholding the constitution and the bill of rights. However, I don’t have to wait to get killed or attacked to defend myself or others from a clear and present danger. I thank you for your kind thoughts and it is my honor to serve.

        • Claude Duncan December 1, 2015, 9:26 am

          Many good points coming from a fine officer from your words. Just a question for you on this, being the Law Enforcement Officer. Would a law abiding concealed carry citizen went to to jail for doing the same thing this officer did on the first few shots? You say to protect the public, but cannot the law abiding citizen use the same as a defense? Where was the threat towards the officer? Sir I am a Utah Concealed firearms instructor and would never instruct anyone to shoot in this situation. I served in the U.S. Army, and was a Colorado Department of Corrections transport officer and have been a concealed carry citizen for over 30 years and never have had to pull a firearm in defense of self or others.
          So the question is that I would really like to know coming from you, is would I of went to jail for the same thing as this officer did in the first shot from my firearm, and would I have been charged with murder within hours and not a year later like this officer?
          Thank you Sir for your continued serves.

        • Claude Duncan December 1, 2015, 9:37 am

          One other thing sir is. Yes he has the Ability factor, 2 he has the opportunity factor, but the last jeopardy factor is what is missing. The law abiding citizen can not use deadly force to protect property. From what I have seen on the video the guy never did make any movement towards the officers. I do teach the Tuller drill in my concealed classes and yes if you were alone and not had your firearm out you could be cut to pieces before you could draw your firearm.
          Again Thank you

    • Albert Sutlick November 27, 2015, 2:37 pm

      George, I have a couple of questions. First, what ever happened to the use of a shotgun ? The pellets, even buckshot, are far less dangerous to bystanders by ricochet. and can be reasonably aimed to bring the perpetrator off his feet and the threat substantially reduced. In this case and in many others recently, there appears to have been no split-second response needed, where only a handgun might be available. Second, have any of the departments tried one of the shoulder held capture nets used for wildlife capture ? As a wildlife biologist, I have seen these used successfully and many large game animals. While certainly not the final answer in all cases, where a knife or questionable weapon is concerned, it would seem to be a reasonable first attempt.

      • George November 28, 2015, 3:37 pm

        Albert, sadly, many departments do not have the financial ability to equip officers with both rifles and shotguns. I am fortunate that mine does but even so, some officers fail to deploy their long guns even when it might be appropriate simply because they don’t have the right mindset to grab the long gun. Could a shotgun have been used here? Sure but I think the end result would have been the same. I’ve done some testing with ricocheting pellets from a shot gun and they carry for quite a long way.

        On the nets? Nice idea but how much do they cost, how much training is needed and how much room do they take up in storage? My agency provides every officer with a Taser whereas apparently, Chicago PD doesn’t so I’m not sure how much money for net guns and training would be available on the average police department. Not to mention, elk, deer and other animals have hooves and teeth, trying to subdue a human armed with a knife and the determination to use it while caught up in a net is not such a great idea.

        Ultimately, while I have great respect for human life, if you are carrying a knife or a sword and waving it around with the accompanying demonstration of your willingness to use it to inflict harm on others while ignoring and defying perfectly legitimate orders to divest yourself of the weapon, you must run the risk of being shot. I do not have to save idiots from themselves or run the risk of being stabbed, slashed or murdered because a criminal, high on PCP or something else decides that he or she doesn’t want to conform to the norms of society that everyone else is willing to. As I have said, this officer went way too far IMHO but initially, the suspect carrying the knife was a winner in the Darwin Awards.

  • Bob November 27, 2015, 6:36 am

    Along with Chicago Police not releasing the video until they were sued, this seems almost as troublesome as the dash cam video:

    “We then learned, as we interviewed people from Burger King that was located kitty-corner to where this happened – and the Burger King cameras had seven different video files. The officer went into the Burger King, and he erased all seven of those files. The irony is, though, that the Burger King surveillance video was running while the officer erased them. And so there’s a videotape of the officer erasing the video.”

    • FALPhil November 27, 2015, 7:53 am

      Why would Burger King even let a cop look at the vieo without a warrant? Are people really that stupid?

      • George November 27, 2015, 9:14 am

        Many businesses cooperate with police in allowing them to review their video surveillance without a warrant. Many times it is because they have evidence of crimes committed against them contained on their cameras such as employee theft, battery on employees, robberies etc. For that reason, many businesses allow police to view or even provide video without a warrant.

        If this officer really did erase video, then he or she needs to be investigated, prosecuted for evidence tampering in a capital case, (which in my state means the felony level of tampering is increased) jailed and tossed out of the force with the loss of their pension. If, of course, the account is true and not something along the lines of the lies told in Ferguson about Mike Brown having his hands up when shot and supposedly screaming don’t shoot. Which was a complete and utter lie but was repeated ad nausem by the lame stream media and still is to this day by the ‘useful idiots’ with an agenda.

  • JGinNJ November 27, 2015, 5:14 am

    I don’t want to judge because I have never been in this policeman’s position so I don’t know how I would react, even if I had training and experience. There are other things we don’t know either – such as what the shooter’s drug test showed.
    The victim had drugs in his system, reports are that he had PCP. Isn’t that “Angel Dust”? From years of reading stories about people who have taken that substance I have the impression that it encourages feelings of invincibility and also extremely abrupt changes in motion and lots of violence. What should the cops have done, if they suspected Angel Dust? Rush the man and beat him with sticks? It is possible that such action was taken in the past and a wildly unpredictable drugged man with a knife was able to slash an artery in the neck of a cop or two before being subdued.

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