Man in custody following threats tied to Van Dyke trial, police say

07 October, 2018, 08:14 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty in Murder of La Quan McDonald

Chicago court live camera footageChicago cop Jason Van Dyke was found guilty this afternoon of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Jody Gleason pointed to dashcam video of Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times as the teenager held a knife at his side. It also showed Van Dyke continuing to fire even after McDonald fell to the ground and lay motionless.

The verdict in Chicago is among the exceptions - and the second time in recent months that a jury has convicted a police officer in a controversial shooting. In recent years, fatal shootings of civilians by police officers in Cincinnati, Milwaukee, North Charleston, South Carolina, and the Minneapolis area have spurred intense protests, followed by criminal charges, then by acquittals or deadlocked juries. They are anticipating an outcome that could bring justice for Laquan McDonald or acquit Van Dyke. The jury had eight men and four women, of those, seven were white, three Hispanic, one Asian-American and one African-American.

Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon had told the jury that "under very special circumstances" a police officer can legally shoot a person but Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder because "not a single shot was necessary or justified".

One juror noted as "the turning point" testimony that Van Dyke told his partner, "Oh my God, we're going to have to shoot that guy", before arriving at the scene.

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But the jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and other charges. Voters dismissed the prosecutor in the case, who waited a year to charge Van Dyke. The city saw protests after video of the shooting was released in November 2015, and activists have been planning how they might react to a verdict.

Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each bullet he fired. But Van Dyke said McDonald was behaving erratically and had lunged at him with the knife.

Van Dyke must serve 85 percent of whatever sentence the judge sets before being eligible for parole.

James Thomas O'Donnell, a pharmacologist who testified in the trial, said that someone with as much of PCP in his system as McDonald had in his bloodstream could have a "feeling of omnipotence", according to The Associated Press. Instead of complying, LaQuan McDonald tried to walk away from officers.

In a joint statement, activist Carl Dix and philosopher Cornel West called Van Dyke's actions "illegitimate violence" that the trial "reinforced". They have all pleaded not guilty.

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Mr Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, but has been convicted of the lesser charge.

Video of the shooting led protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of the city's mayor and eventually the ouster of the police superintendent.

"The video doesn't show my perspective", he said. He was due to run for a third term, but announced last month that he had made a decision to step down. "Should this occur, it may create potentially risky situations around the city".

Van Dyke's lawyer Dan Herbert said his client was a "sacrificial lamb" by politicians who wanted to appease an angry public.

As jurors began deliberating, the Chicago Police Department canceled days off and put officers on 12-hour shifts.

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