Chicago Officer Charged in Death of Black Teenager

25 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago Officer Charged in Death of Black Teenager.

A white Chicago police officer was charged on Tuesday with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October of 2014, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a statement. More than a year after prosecutors say Officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald, 17, a first-degree murder charge has been filed against the officer. He reportedly fired at the teenager from around 15 feet away, striking him in the head and chest, before continuing to shoot at him while he lay in an ‘almost fetal position’ on the ground.

Van Dyke is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing at midday. “One individual needs to be held accountable,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters on Monday. “They need to be held accountable for what they’ve done.” The murder charges against Van Dyke come as the city faces a court-ordered deadline on Wednesday to release dashcam video from a police squad car that captured footage of Van Dyke shooting McDonald. It comes a day before dashboard camera footage of the shooting is set to be finally released by Chicago Police Department after a judge ruled that the force must make it public by tomorrow. He and his attorney declined comment as they arrived at the courthouse, where Van Dyke likely will appear in bond court Tuesday afternoon, once formal charges have been filed by Cook County prosecutors.

Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Officer Van Dyke, said the officer, a 14-year police veteran, believed the shooting was justified because he feared for his safety. Protesters have been pushing for the footage – which allegedly shows McDonald being shot in the back by Van Dyke, who then keeps firing – to be released by authorities for 13 months. Chicago has not witnessed civil unrest on the scale that other cities around the county have in response to several fatal police shootings of black men across the country in the past year.

Rarely have officers here faced such charges, and the prosecutor’s announcement came amid a national debate over race, police shootings and a growing number of encounters captured on video showing police conduct. Chicago’s police force has its own sometimes painful history, which by some estimates includes more than $500 million in settlements and other costs over the last decade tied to police misconduct as well as reparations for black residents who said a group of officers abused and tortured them in the 1970s and 1980s.

A judge finally ruled last week that the video must be released following a lawsuit from a freelance journalist, who had sued under Illinois’s open records law. But some African-American leaders say the video’s release could prove as pivotal to race relations in the United States as last summer’s unrest after the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. “Getting ahead of it, and making sure that we present to the mayor what we expect to happen, I think that’s critical if we’re going to prevent violence from happening in our neighborhoods,” the Rev. A Chicago police union official also told reporters soon after the incident that McDonald, who had PCP in his system at the time of his death and was holding a knife with a four-inch blade, lunged at the officer Michael Robbins, an attorney for McDonald’s family, said the video shows that the teen was walking away from Van Dyke when he fired. Emanuel says he hasn’t seen the video — but as he called for calm, he also said that from what he has learned about the case, “What happened here is wrong. The city’s police union has said McDonald was armed with a knife, was high on PCP, ignored police orders to drop his weapon, and eventually lunged at officers in the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road.

There is no justification and it’s profoundly hideous, in my view.” The Chicago Sun-Times recently filled in some of the details about McDonald’s life, relaying the story of a young boy who was twice taken out of his mother’s care due to abuse allegations. The newspaper reports that he was a ward of the state when he was killed, and adds that “McDonald was particularly close to his grandmother, Goldie Hunter, and was in her care until she died last year. City officials expect a sharp reaction to the video’s release, which comes as police treatment of African-American men has become hot-button issue nationally in the aftermath of high-profile incidents in New York, Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, North Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere in the last 18 months.

Michael Pflegar, a prominent Catholic priest and activist on the city’s South Side, applauded the murder charge and announcement that Servin would be fired. Although the mayor initially fought the effort to make the video public, he reversed course last week, and has since criticized the officer’s actions. “This officer didn’t uphold the law. The judge ordered the Police Department to release the footage after the city had refused to do so for months, saying the investigations into the shooting were not complete. ‘It’ll be out there and people will see it dozens and dozens and dozens of times.

Then you have to go to that same population and select a jury pool,’ said Dean Angelo, president of the Chicago lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. Ira Acree, who described the meeting with Emanuel as ‘very tense, very contentious,’ said the mayor expressed concerns about the prospect of any demonstrations getting out of control. Another minister who attended, Jedidiah Brown, said emotions were running so high that there would be no stopping major protests once the video is released.

But records show that he had been the subject of numerous complaints from residents, including allegations of using excessive force and making racial slurs. The Independent Police Review Authority found that neither allegation had merit; The Chicago police are frequently involved in shootings, including 15 between July and September this year. McDonald got to a busy stretch of Pulaski Road, a multilane commercial stretch, the police dashboard camera captured the final moments of the episode.

Robbins said Monday evening. “It’s a reminder about the loss of her son — and it’s going to come as this big, glaring, publicly displayed event.

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