Chicago police officer charged with first-degree murder

Approximately 400 days after Chicago police responded to a report of an unstable man wielding a knife and slashing car tires, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

The 37-year-old Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran of the Chicago police force, shot McDonald 16 times.

On Oct. 20, 2014, Van Dyke and additional police units answered calls to investigate McDonald’s behavior and alleged vandalism in the Archer Heights neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.

Initial police reports declared McDonald, at the time a ward of the state, had lunged at police and posed a “very serious threat” while holding a knife.  Officer Van Dyke fired 16 times, killing McDonald.

Officer Van Dyke was the only responding police officer to discharge his weapon.

An autopsy conducted revealed McDonald had been shot in the head, neck, chest, arms and legs.

Contradicting police accounts, eyewitnesses stated McDonald never posed a threat and was walking away from police as he was shot.

One witness at the scene on the night of the incident, Alma Benitez, says Van Dyke was in-the-wrong.

“It was super exaggerated,” she said.You didn’t need that many cops to begin with. They didn’t need to shoot him. They didn’t. They basically had him face-to-face. There was no purpose why they had to shoot him.”

In June 2015, the city of Chicago formalized a $5 million payment to McDonald’s family; however, the city refused to release the dash-cam recording of the affair.

In April, freelance journalist, Brandon Smith, sued the Chicago Police Department to gain release of the dash-cam video which captured the event; a Cook County judge ordered the release of the video in mid-November.

On Wednesday, Officer Van Dyke, who has been on administrative desk duty since the 2014 incident, turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday morning.  The one page indictment charges Van Dyke with shooting McDonald “without legal justification and with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm.”

Responding to the media on Tuesday, and bracing for civil unrest, Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel revealed he had not yet viewed the dash-cam video but appealed for peaceful protests.

“I understand people will be upset and want to protest when they see this video. It is fine to be passionate, but it is essential to remain peaceful,” averred Emanuel.

In a Monday teleconference with Chicago ministers, Emanuel declared Van Dyke’s actions “hideous” and defended the city’s management of the entire affair.

They refer to Cook County as “Crook” County for a reason.

This is another black eye for the entire justice apparatus in Chicago from Anita Alvarez’s State’s Attorney Office all the way down to the police department.

The city remains embroiled in controversy for a ten-year cover up, which sheltered former mayor Richard Daley’s nephew, R. J. Vanecko, from prosecution for a drunken, late-night fracas outside a Chicago nightclub in 2004, which left 21-year-old David Koschman dead.

If not for the vigilance of the victim’s mother, Nanci Koschman, doggedly pursuing the truth and wishing justice for her dead son, the descendant of a politically-connected family would have tap danced away from liability in a gross misdeed.

That it required a year and a court order to release the dash-cam only serves as a reminder for a constant need to confront Cook County’s maddening inconsistencies offered in both the Vanecko and Van Dyke cases.

While Mr. Emanuel attempted to create a passable, realistic portrait of Chicago’s law enforcement at work, amateur sleuthing in both the Vanecko and Van Dyke revealed more than Anita Alvarez’s office or the Chicago police department’s slow investigations disclosed.

Without such examination, those in control of the levers of power may very well have shielded the guilty from culpability and justice would have been turned on its head.


[] [Chicago Sun Times] [Chicagonewsnow/Twitter] [BBC] [RT News] [Photo courtesy]