Chicago charges officer in black teen’s death, releases video of shooting (Video)
A white Chicago policeman who shot a black teenager to death was charged with murder on Tuesday in a prosecution hastened in hopes of averting renewed racial turmoil over the use of lethal police force that has shaken the United States for more than a year.
A highly anticipated video of the 2014 shooting, taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of a police squad car, was released under orders from a judge hours after the officer in question, Jason Van Dyke, made his first appearance in court.
Amid intense interest from the media and public, the police department website where the footage was posted became overwhelmed and initially crashed.
The city braced for demonstrations but so far only a group of about 100 people were protesting about a mile south of Chicago’s business district.
The video clip showed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who authorities said was carrying a knife and had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system, as he was gunned down in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014, as walked away from officers who confronted him.
From the dashboard camera, two police officers are seen jumping out of their car and drawing their weapons while advancing toward McDonald. Within seconds he is struck by bullets and crumples to the ground, his body jerking as he is hit by additional rounds of gunfire.
Prosecutors said he was shot 16 times by Van Dyke, who emptied his gun and was preparing to reload his weapon. Van Dyke has said through his lawyer and the police union that the shooting was justified because he felt threatened by McDonald.
“Clearly, this officer went overboard and he abused his authority, and I don’t think use of force was necessary,” top Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez said at a news conference after Van Dyke’s initial hearing.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel appealed for calm as the city prepared for possible protests.
“It is fine to be passionate but it essential to remain peaceful,” Emanuel told a news conference to announce the release of the video. Emanuel was flanked by a dozen community leaders.
At the same news conference, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said police would “facilitate” protests but would not tolerate criminal behavior.
Van Dyke was denied bail at a hearing in Chicago’s main criminal courthouse hours after prosecutor Alvarez announced charges of first-degree murder. If convicted, Van Dyke could face 20 years to life in prison.