Teen killed by Chicago officer had broken, troubled family

27 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago Protesters Plan Black Friday March Over Laquan McDonald Death.

CHICAGO – After days of protests in Chicago since the release of a video showing a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer, demonstrators were poised to disrupt Black Friday shopping with a march through the heart of the city’s most famous retail district. Chicago police officers line up outside the District 1 central headquarters at 17th and State streets Tuesday during a protest for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was fatally shot and killed in October 2014 in Chicago. Laquan McDonald, whose name demonstrators have shouted for two days and will shout again during a planned rally to disrupt the city’s famed Magnificent Mile shopping corridor Friday, lived a troubled, disadvantaged life and had at least one previous brush with the law.

News outlets around the world have picked up the story with headlines screaming “Police officer shot black teen 16 times”, “Protests erupt after video of white cop killing”, “Dashcam video shows black teen shot 16 times”. School officials and the McDonald family lawyer say there were signs Laquan was trying to get his life in order, though prosecutors say he had drugs in his system and was burglarizing cars on Oct. 20, 2014 — the night a squad-car video captured officer Jason Van Dyke shooting him. “It takes a while to get a life back on track,” said Thomas Gattuso, the principal at the alternative high school that McDonald was attending. “With Laquan, we unfortunately never got to finish his story.” Protesters and civil rights activists are demanding more investigations and police reform after Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder this week. Laquan was a ward of the state, having spent years being shuttled between different relatives’ homes and foster care from the time he was aged three. Jesse Jackson and others have called for a “massive” march on Black Friday along Michigan Avenue, a swank downtown boulevard that’s normally packed with post-Thanksgiving shoppers. The video released Tuesday shows McDonald jogging down an empty lane on a four-lane street and then veering away from Van Dyke and another officer who emerge from a police SUV drawing their guns.

McDonald’s family has appealed for calm, and his mother at least initially opposed the public release of the graphic dashcam video showing his death, attorney Michael Robbins said. In recent days, there has been talk that marchers taking part in the Black Friday protest would engage in acts of civil disobedience, such as blocking store entrances to prevent shoppers from getting inside. His mother had been making efforts to regain custody of her son before he was killed and had been granted permission to take a younger sister back into her home, Robbins said. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said Van Dyke emptied his weapon before his partner stepped forward and kicked the knife away from McDonald. A freelance journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video after learning of the shooting, but the Chicago Police Department refused to release it, saying it could hurt investigations.

Jessie Davis, of the group Stop Mass Incarceration Network, said there have been calls on social media for people to engage in civil disobedience, and Charlene Carruthers, national director of the activist group Black Youth Project 100, would not rule out acts such actions. Marshall Hatch, co-chairman of the Leaders Network of Chicago, a nonprofit activist group. “From this tragedy and crisis, we need fundamental police reform, as well as an urban policy that offers live options for our young people.” Pfleger said he thinks the march itself will cost businesses money because the publicity surrounding it will discourage shoppers from even venturing into the area. From around age six to 16, he lived with his great-grandmother and then stayed in the same house with an uncle after his great-grandmother died in 2014. At a joint news conference Tuesday evening, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy discouraged the kind of unrest seen in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, after young black men were slain by police or died in police custody.

But there were indications that it would be a bigger crowd than the other marches and rallies, which so far have attracted anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred demonstrators. Emanuel and McCarthy described the shooting of McDonald as an unusual and tragic incident, and the mayor noted that McDonald’s family had asked people not to resort to violence. The police have allowed protesters to march in the middle of the street and even hold rallies in the middle of intersections, and on Thursday the department said it would handle Friday’s march much the same way. Gattuso said Laquan took the initiative to attend Sullivan House High School, a school for at-risk students and high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 21. They’ve also harshly criticized the department for its months-long effort to prevent the video from being released and the state’s attorney’s office for taking more than a year to file charges against the officer, despite having footage of the incident.

Attorney’s Office since mid-November on an active, joint criminal investigation and that police-involved shootings are “highly complex” cases that take longer than typical shootings to investigate. Van Dyke’s attorney has said the officer feared for his life when he fired at McDonald and that the case should be tried in the courtroom, not in social media or on city streets.

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