Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke found guilty of second-degree murder
He shot a teenager 16 times, and on Friday a jury decided a cop was a murderer.
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke remained expressionless Friday afternoon as he was found guilty of second-degree murder for shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts — one for each shot — of aggravated battery with a firearm. The courtroom remained entirely silent as the jury foreman read off the verdict, her voice unwavering.The judge had warned against any and all outbursts, telling those gathered in the Chicago courtroom that such behavior would result in arrest.
One member of the McDonald family stepped outside, unable to guarantee her composure.
The verdict comes nearly three years to the day after dashcam footage of the shooting sparked protests across the nation and widespread calls for justice.
The video, which shows McDonald walking away from officers as Van Dyke opens fire, played a key role in the weeks-long trial.
McDonald’s death remained mostly under the radar until the city released the dashcam footage a year later in November 2015. The officer was charged with murder on the same day.
In the years since, the city’s top officer was fired and the local state’s attorney was voted out of office. And just days before the trial’s end, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced he would not seek a third term — though he did not specifically cite the police shooting as the cause.
Demonstrators gathered outside the courtroom urged him to resign.
Emmanuel in a statement issued Friday called for calm and encouraged citizens to try focus on bettering the city of Chicago.
“Today the jury reached its verdict. As we absorb their decision, let us continue to hear each other and partner with each other — as public servants, police and members of the public — and let us ensure our collective mission is what endures for generations to come,” he said.
“We come from many neighborhoods, many walks of life and many places throughout the world. But for all of us, this is our home.”
The ACLU praised the jury’s guilty verdict but emphasized that it is only the first step toward what should be an overhaul of law enforcement and how they interact with people of color.
“Jason Van Dyke will be held accountable but we grieve for the McDonald family and broader community. Laquan McDonald should still be alive today and this doesn’t bring him back,” the organization tweeted.
“96% of people shot by the Chicago police are Black or Latinx. No one believes that the conviction of Jason Van Dyke repairs the problem in policing — not in Chicago nor in our country. We must continue to to demand systemic change to how police officers serve communities.”
During the trial, Van Dyke insisted the killing was justified.
“His back never once turned towards me,” Van Dyke testified. “He could have made a decision to turn and walk in the other direction; he could have dropped the knife and ended it right there.”
The now-convicted felon said he was obsessed with the teen’s small blade until another officer kicked it away.
“I shot at the knife. I wanted him to get rid of the knife. My focus was just on that knife. … That’s all I could think of,” Van Dyke said in court.
He fought back tears and was defiant at times when questioned by prosecutors.