After the release of the video on Tuesday showing the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white Chicago police officer, demonstrators took to the streets of this city’s downtown in tense but largely peaceful protests. The night of protest followed a day of fast-moving events. There was the first-degree murder charges against the officer, Jason Van Dyke, in the shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, and, hours later, the release of graphic video from a police dashboard camera of the 2014 shooting, which a judge had ordered the city to make public by Wednesday, reports the New York Times.
With the unrest and violence of Ferguson and Baltimore still fresh memories, some in Chicago seemed relieved by the relative calm. “While on the whole last night’s demonstrations were peaceful, a few isolated incidents resulted in five arrests related to resisting arrest and assaulting police officers,” a police spokesman said on Wednesday.
Prosecutors have said Van Dyke opened fire six seconds after exiting his squad car as McDonald was walking away from him at 41st Street and Pulaski Road. Van Dyke then fired 16 rounds at McDonald in about 14 seconds and was reloading when another officer told him to hold his fire, prosecutors said at bond court.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the video showed McDonald lying on the ground as shots continued to strike his body and the pavement near him. Puffs of debris were kicking up and his arms and body jerked as he was being hit. Van Dyke’s partner told authorities there was a brief pause in the shots and he saw Van Dyke reloading, so he told Van Dyke to hold his fire so he could approach and disarm McDonald.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, and the first shot was fired about six seconds after he exited his squad car, Alvarez said. About 14 or 15 seconds passed between the first and last shots fired by Van Dyke, and for 13 of those seconds, McDonald was on the ground, she said. McDonald’s autopsy found he was shot once on each side of his chest and suffered single bullet wounds in the scalp and neck, two in his back, seven in his arms, one in his right hand and two in his right leg. According to the report, nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward or slightly downward trajectory.
Van Dyke joined the department in 2001 and spent more than four years with the Targeted Response Unit, which has since disbanded by police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The TRU aggressively went into neighborhoods experiencing spikes in violent crime. The strategy behind the TRU was to provide an overwhelming presence in areas that have either experienced a significant rise in violent crime, or in areas where there was intelligence that indicated there would be an increase in gang-relatd activity and violence. TRU’s missions were clearly defined: provide zero tolerance protection within a designated area to prevent violent crimes.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, appealed for calm as the city hoped to avert the turmoil over race and the use of lethal police force that has shaken much of the United States for more than a year. Hundreds of protesters gathered after dark a few miles east of the site of the shooting and marched through the streets chanting: “You don’t get to kill us and tell us how to feel. You don’t get to shoot us and tell us how to heal.”
Reuters reports that Van Dyke has had 20 misconduct complaints made against him during the past 4-1/2 years, none of which led to any discipline from the Chicago Police Department, according to research by Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor and expert on police accountability issues. “The Chicago Police Department refuses to look at potential patterns of misconduct complaints when investigating police misconduct,” Futterman said. “If the department did look at these patterns when investigating police abuse, there is a great chance right now that 17-year-old boy would still be alive.”
Van Dyke is a text-book example of the type of individual who should not be in law enforcement. Someone who shoots a suspect 16 times, is in the process of reloading and has to be told by his partner to stop shooting should never be given a badge.
McDonald’s family called for calm, as did city authorities and black community leaders. “No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful. Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that,” McDonald’s family said in a statement through their lawyer.