Officer Jason Van Dyke could face 20 years or more in prison if convicted of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald as he was walking away, but the police department and city government that tried to cover up the crime has yet to be held accountable.
This is the first murder charge against an active-duty Chicago police officer in over 30 years, though, judging by how shootings by Chicago police are handled in the city, perhaps not the first murder. It would have been successfully swept under the rug if journalists had not exposed an autopsy report and video footage contradicting the official report. One of those journalists is Jamie Kalven.
According to Kalven, instead of taking statements from eyewitnesses, police forced people away from the murder scene. Witnesses told Kalven that the police didn’t take down contact information to follow up. Cops even went so far as deleting roughly an hour-and-a-half of security camera footage from a nearby fast food store.
Brandon Smith, reporter who forced release of Laquan McDonald video is barred from news conference https://t.co/aZdemAuwWL
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 25, 2015
After neutralizing the potential for an alternative narrative based on civilian accounts and security camera footage, the police infrastructure offered its own version of events to the public. According to Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden, “none of the officers who responded had a Taser to use on the teen and were trying to detain him long enough for one to arrive.” Camden told the Chicago Tribune that McDonald lunged at the cops, who shot him in self-defense.
The video Kalven helped expose indicates Camden was lying, or at least relaying a story that bears little resemblance to the truth. McDonald is seen jogging and then walking in the middle of a street, roughly parallel to a line of cops and cop cars. He is starting to veer away from the officers when Van Dyke empties a 16-round clip into him in about 15 seconds. Charging documents indicate that 14 of Van Dyke’s shots came while McDonald was already on the ground, and that one of the two fired while the child was standing struck him in the back first.
The department claimed that McDonald died of a single gunshot to the chest, and not Van Dyke emptying an entire clip into him while he lay on the ground. Even with the official story of McDonald’s death was completely torn apart, city officials appear eager to limit the blame to Van Dyke.
Featured image via screen grab