By August Pimentel,
Domestic News Writer
The night before Thanksgiving in Chicago, while many people were asleep in their beds, turkeys brining and waiting to be stuffed, others led a protest through the city, one which continued for over a week straight.
The previous Tuesday, video taken from the dashboard camera of a police cruiser belonging to 14-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, Jason Van Dyke gunning down 17-year old Laquan McDonald on Pulaski Road on the southwest side of Chicago on Oct. 20, 2014. Cook County medical examiners confirm McDonald was shot 16 times, 10 from the front, and six through his back.
On the night of the incident, the Chicago Police Department received a 911 call reporting a young man was carrying a knife and attempting to break into vehicles on the southwest side. According to officers, a cruiser pulled up alongside McDonald and asking him to drop his knife, which he refused to do and began jogging away. The officers requested backup and for those arriving to bring a Taser gun to immobilize McDonald. Police claim Mr. McDonald pounded on the windshield of the cruiser and thrust his knife into the front wheel. As a new cruiser arrived on the scene, it captured the last moments of the incident on a dashboard camera. McDonald is shown jogging alongside the police cars when, several seconds later, Officer Van Dyke exits his car and fires at McDonald who falls on his stomach as a result of the gun shots.
According to the New York Times, this case has been under investigation by the FBI, the US Attorney’s office in Chicago, and the Cook County state’s Attorney’s office since April. The city Law Department refused to release the video until now, citing that the case was under investigation and that evidence could not be disclosed to the public until the case was completed.
This past August, Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist, filed suit requesting the release of the footage, saying that its withholding was a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Judge Franklin Valderrama of Cook County ruled in his favor, stating that the footage must be released within the week of Nov. 22.
As the incident became public, so did outrage against the CPD and its repeated failures to provide honest answers to citizens of the city while failing to mitigate wrongdoings by its officers. According to a Times article earlier in November, CPD has investigated only 3 percent of over 28,500 citizen complaints against officer malpractice from 2011-2015. Van Dyke has had 18 complaints filed against him, including accusations of using excessive force and using racial slurs. In April, the city paid Mr. McDonald’s family an appropriation of $5M at the beginning of the criminal investigation. The Times uncovered that over the past 10 years, Chicago has paid over $500M in settlements and other costs as a result of police malpractice. Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, states that Van Dyke believes he was protecting himself and others from danger through killing McDonald, and denies that he ever received complaints or performed dishonorably in the field.
As a result of the complaints, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has publically acknowledged the fault of the police department calling for the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents,” said Mayor Emanuel in a written statement. “In this case, unfortunately, it appears an officer violated this trust at every level.”
Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder on Tuesday, Nov. 24, and released from jail Monday, Nov. 30 on a $1.5M bond. Mayor Emanuel and the city hope to start a healing process in Chicago and bring justice and serious reform to the police department.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.
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