The city of Chicago is bracing for civil unrest after the release of a dash-cam video showing the police killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
The October 20, 2014 shooting followed a police chase that ensued after a man called 911 to report that a knife-wielding suspect had threatened him and was attempting to break into vehicles in an Archer Heights trucking yard at 41st and Kildare Street on the city’s Southwest Side.
Police said two officers responded to the call and found McDonald about a block away holding a knife in his right hand. After a short foot pursuit, police claimed McDonald lunged at an officer after slashing the tire of a squad car.
As one patrol car pulled in front of McDonald to block his path, another pulled up beside, and then in front of the teenager – police said – and both officers jumped out with their guns drawn. Officer Jason Van Dyke then opened fire and shot McDonald 16 times.
The officer contended from the beginning that McDonald was moving toward him with the knife and that he opened fire to protect himself, but Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez said Tuesday that the shooting was “not justified” based on the dash-cam footage she gleamed.
After the city attempted to prevent the public release of the footage citing possible riots that may ensue, Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered police to make the video available by Nov. 25.
The footage was released Tuesday night and plainly shows McDonald walking away from the direction of officers without posing any immediate threat to them when he is fired upon.
Watch the raw footage:
Cook County Medical Examiner’s said an autopsy found that McDonald had PCP in his system and was shot in the chest, neck, back, arms and right leg. He was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital about an hour after the shooting.
Officer Van Dyke turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday morning after being charged with first degree murder. He was reportedly only on the scene for about 30 seconds before he began firing shots – some, after McDonald was already on the ground, the dash-cam video shows.
“[The officers actions] were not a proper use of deadly force,” Alvarez said. “He abused his authority, and I don’t believe the use of force was necessary. With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands.”
“It is everything it has been described to be by the news accounts,” Alvarez added referring to the footage. “It is graphic, it is violent, it is chilling. I’ve been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years… to watch a 17-year-old, young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing.”
Van Dyke’s arrest marks the first time in 30 years that a Chicago police officer has been charged with murder. He faces between 20 years and life in prison.
In April, the Chicago City Council approved a $5 million dollar settlement to McDonald’s relatives – before the family had even filed a lawsuit.
Chicago activists gathered on the University of Illinois Chicago campus to talk about the video’s release on Tuesday with about 150 people eventually taking to the streets, blocking traffic, and chanting, “16 times!” At one point, they even locked hands and surrounded several police cars.
Demonstrations are expected continue in the city on into the week.