Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune / TNS / AP

Chicago cop charged with murder in shooting death of black teen

Officer Jason Van Dyke expected to appear at bond hearing as city officials brace for release of video of shooting

A Chicago police officer was charged on Tuesday with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October of 2014, the state’s attorney said.

The charges came as Chicago police and community activists were carefully planning for the expected release this week of a police video showing the death of McDonald, who is black, at the hands of white police officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times after he allegedly refused police orders to drop a knife. Some city officials and others are worried that the video could spark civil unrest.

Van Dyke was being processed Tuesday at Chicago's main criminal courthouse. He is being held in Cook County jail without bond until Nov. 30, when a hearing is scheduled.

A judge has ordered Chicago police to release a patrol car dashboard camera video that shows Van Dyke shooting and killing McDonald. The video is expected to be released by Wednesday.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke’s mug shot.
Cook County State's Attorney's Office/Handout/Reuters

Police and Van Dyke's lawyer, Daniel Herbert, have said other police officers were at the scene when Van Dyke shot McDonald, who police said refused officers’ orders to put down a knife.

“I can’t speak why the [other] officers didn’t shoot,” Herbert told 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 and that he was concerned about the lives of [other] police officers.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pushed prosecutors to conclude their investigation and said last week that it appeared Van Dyke had violated the public trust.

Chicago hasn’t witnessed civil unrest on the scale that other cities around the country had in response to fatal police shootings of black men in the past year. Nonetheless, the Chicago Police Department said it was planning for possible protests.

McDonald's family on Tuesday released a statement through their lawyers urging calm after the video is released.

"No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful," the statement said.

"Don't resort to violence in Laquan's name," it added.

Supporters of police reform said the judge’s ruling to release the video of McDonald’s killing was a victory for transparency.

“I think the public deserves the right to examine the evidence that’s available,” said Eva Nagao, a spokeswoman for We Charge Genocide, a Chicago group critical of police tactics.

She described concerns about widespread looting or violence as “fearmongering,” saying that Chicago has seen many protests transpire peacefully. “Chicago has a long history of nonviolent and effective protesting,” she said.

But some African-American leaders say the video’s release could prove as pivotal to race relations in the United States as last year’s unrest after the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Getting ahead of it and making sure that we present to the mayor what we expect to happen — I think that’s critical if we’re going to prevent violence from happening in our neighborhoods,” the Rev. Corey Brooks, a pastor at New Beginnings Church, told Chicago’s CBS TV station.

With wire services. Wilson Dizard contributed to this report.

Related News

Find Al Jazeera America on your TV

Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter


Get email updates from Al Jazeera America

Sign up for our weekly newsletter