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Officer Who Shot Laquan McDonald 16 Times Pleads Not Guilty to Murder Charges

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives Dec. 29 at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago for his arraignment. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago for his arraignment. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

Jason Van Dyke, the officer at the center of the Laquan McDonald shooting which blew the lid of the out-of-control Chicago Police Department, has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke entered a not-guilty plea at a Tuesday morning arraignment. Van Dyke is currently free on a $1.5 million bond. Daniel Herbert, Van Dyke’s attorney, said he would try to get the trial moved out of Cook County, because he didn’t believe his client could get a fair trial there.

Van Dyke was captured on video shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police reports claim that McDonald lunged at Van Dyke and he was forced to shoot to protect himself. However, the video clearly shows McDonald was walking away from Van Dyke. Van Dyke is seen shooting McDonald multiple times at close range in an act that seemed more like an execution.

The City of Chicago spent a lot of time and money suppressing the McDonald tape. They quickly offered the McDonald family a $5 million settlement, even before they filed a lawsuit. However, the terms of the settlement forbade the McDonald family from talking about the case or requesting the tape. Fortunately, independent journalist Jamie Kalven filed a Freedom of Information request and a judge ordered the tape released, almost a year after the shooting took place.

The City of Chicago has erupted in protests with demonstrators shutting down freeways and staging other public protests. Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded by firing Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, but protesters are also calling for Emanuel’s and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s resignations. Some Chicago residents say Emanuel must have known about the tape and played a role in keeping it quiet. If the tape had been released in October 2014, when it happened, it would have damaged Emanuel’s re- election chances.

Protesters have accused Alvarez of failing to prosecute wayward Chicago police officers. She only indicted Van Dyke after the tape was released to the public. The CPD had placed him on desk duty, but he was still drawing a paycheck, even though he received up to 20 complaints before the McDonald shooting. According to The Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke was suspended without pay after he was charged. Van Dyke is the first CPD officer to be charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in 35 years.

The Chicago PD’s shootings and the seeming of accountability have led to a Department of Justice investigation, just at the CPD is being rocked by the questionable shootings of Quintonio Le Grier, a college student, and Bettie Jones, a 55-year-old grandmother, who police admit was accidentally shot.

Aislinn Sol, a local Black Lives Matter activist, said the CPD has a long history of brutality against Black people.

“This problem of police terrorism in our communities has existed for many, many decades, leading way back to the assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton Sr,” said Sol said in an interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman. “And, you know, what we know with Fred Hampton Sr.’s murder; with the torture that had gone on through the former police commander, Jon Burge, of over 119 black and Latino men; to Homan Square’s operating today; to what happened with Rekia Boyd, to Ronnie Johnson, to Laquan McDonald—all of this indicates that there’s a deep, embedded structural pattern and practice of terrorism and murder that has been—that has gone on for decades with complicit participation by many levels of government in Chicago.”


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