Cook County State's Attorney's Office / Getty Images

Officer in Laquan McDonald shooting indicted

Cook County grand jury indictment of Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke comes as feds begin probe of department

A grand jury has indicted a white Chicago police officer charged in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, in 2014.

According to a copy of the indictment posted Wednesday on the Chicago Tribune's website, Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, was indicted Tuesday on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct.

The indictment alleges Van Dyke shot the 17-year-old McDonald knowing it "created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm."

McDonald was walking down a street and carrying a knife with a 3-inch blade when he was shot 16 times.

Van Dyke’s attorney Daniel Herbert did not return a phone call Wednesday night from The Associated Press.

On Nov. 24, prosecutors charged Van Dyke with a single count of first-degree murder hours before city officials made the patrol car dashboard camera video public on orders of a Cook County judge.

State's Attorney Anita Alvarez acknowledged at the time that she announced the charge earlier than planned out of concern for "public safety" knowing the intense public anger that the "chilling" video would generate.

Court records show that Alvarez's office obtained the seven-count indictment from a grand jury Tuesday, the Tribune reported. An FBI agent testified before the grand jury, according to the records.

Van Dyke was freed on $1.5 million bail Nov. 30 after spending six nights in Cook County Jail. He is scheduled to return Friday to the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Van Dyke is expected to plead not guilty.

The indictment against Van Dyke is the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in nearly 35 years, according to the Tribune.

In charging the officer with six counts of first-degree murder, the indictment alleged that Van Dyke acted "without lawful justification" in shooting McDonald.

Van Dyke was indicted on charges he intentionally shot and killed McDonald knowing that his acts "created a strong probability of death or great bodily harm."

It is common for prosecutors to charge multiple counts for a single killing under different legal theories.

Van Dyke was also indicted on an official misconduct charge alleging he committed a murder while acting in his official capacity as a Chicago police officer. 

Protests continue

Protesters have marched on Chicago's streets since the video's release. Sixteen protesters were arrested on Tuesday night, and all were charged with misdemeanors and released, according to Chicago police Officer Jose Estrada. Estrada said protesters were lying down in the street.

A protest is planned for Christmas Eve on the city's Magnificent Mile, its most prestigious shopping district, according to the political group "Coalition for a New Chicago." A Nov. 27 protest on the strip drew thousands of demonstrators, who prevented shoppers from entering some stores.

"We're going to do prayer and demonstration," said Gregory Livingston, Coalition founder. He said the group is also planning a protest at politicians' offices on Thursday.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Department of Justice officials began meeting with Chicago police to review policies and procedures, a police spokesman said. The Justice Department said last week that it would be looking at the Chicago department’s used of deadly force. Chicago joins 22 other police departments similarly investigated since the start of the Obama administration, including Baltimore and New Orleans.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Dec. 1, saying it was time for "fresh eyes and new leadership" and that the department needed a “culture change.”

Emanuel, who's faced calls for his resignation over the McDonald case, apologized for shooting at a special City Council meeting while hundreds of people at a midday protest downtown, chanted "16 shots and a cover-up" in reference to the video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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