Tuesday 24 November 2015 14.51 EST
First published on Tuesday 24 November 2015 08.50 EST
A white Chicago police officer has been charged with murder over the shooting death of a black teenager, just one day before a deadline by which a judge has ordered the city to release a squad-car video of the incident.
Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke was indicted on Tuesday on a first-degree murder charge after shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The officer was denied bail at a hearing in Chicago’s main criminal courthouse hours after the state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, announced the charges
Documents filed in court describe the video’s contents, in which the teen is said to be shown walking away from officers on a Chicago street. As McDonald turns away, Van Dyke takes one step towards the teen and begins to fire his gun, the description says.
For 14 to 15 seconds, according the documents prepared by the state’s attorney’s office, the officers unloads his entire gun into the teen, who spends 13 seconds laying face down on the pavement with his arms and legs jerking from the shots making contact with his body. Three clouds of smoke appear during the incident that indicate shots hitting the pavement, according to officials.
Of the eight or more officers on the scene, Van Dyke is the only one to have discharged his weapon.
Van Dyke is the first on-duty officer to be charged with murder while working for the Chicago police department in nearly 35 years.
“I can’t speak to why the [other] officers didn’t shoot,” the lawyer representing Van Dyke, Daniel Herbet, told reporters on Friday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “But I certainly can speak to why my client shot, and it is he believed in his heart of hearts that he was in fear for his life, that he was concerned about the lives of [other] police officers.”
According to a freedom of information request by the Chicago Tribune, the veteran officer has had at least 15 complaints filed against him while working in high-crime neighborhoods, for accusations including using racial epithets and pointing a gun at an arrestee without justification.
In 2007, the officer was involved in a traffic stop in which he and his partner were found to have used excessive force on a man with no prior convictions, leading to a $350,000 award for damages in the case, the Tribune reported.
Chicago police also moved late on Monday to discipline a second officer who had shot and killed an unarmed black woman in 2012, in another incident causing tensions between the department and minority communities. Superintendent Garry McCarthy recommended firing officer Dante Servin for the shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, saying Servin showed “incredibly poor judgment” even though a jury had acquitted him of involuntary manslaughter and other charges last April.
“You had this tape for a year and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm,” one of the ministers, Corey Brooks, said after the meeting.
The two ministers said black people in the city are upset because the officer, though stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty and not fired.
“They had the opportunity to be a good example and a model across the country on how to improve police and community relations and they missed it,” Acree said.