A white Chicago police officer charged with murder for the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Chicago court.
Jason Van Dyke faces six counts of first-degree murder and one of official misconduct in the 17-year-old's death.
He appeared in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan in Cook County Criminal Court and was dressed in a dark suit and blue striped tie. The next hearing is set for Jan. 29.
Public outcry has been furious since a dashcam video was released last month showing the veteran officer shooting McDonald 16 times. The teenager, armed with a knife, was veering away from officers when Van Dyke opened fire —contradicting police reports of the events.
The video shows the teenager walking away from officers on a four-lane street when Van Dyke opened fire from close range and continued shooting after the teen had crumpled to the ground and was barely moving.
Police reports, however, from several officers, including Van Dyke, described McDonald as aggressively approaching officers while armed with a knife.
Van Dyke told an investigator that McDonald was “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner” and that McDonald “raised the knife across chest” and pointed it at Van Dyke, according to one police report. Multiple officers reported that even after McDonald was down, he kept trying to get up with the knife in his hand.
The footage sparked days of street demonstrations, including a Black Friday protest where hundreds of demonstrators blocked store entrances and shut down four lanes of traffic in Chicago's ritziest shopping district.
On Christmas Eve, protesters returned to the shopping district on Michigan Avenue to draw attention to the 2014 killing.
The footage sparked days of street demonstrations, the forced resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and a broad federal civil rights investigation of the police department's practices and how allegations of officer misconduct are handled.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been the target of heavy criticism and calls for resignation since the McDonald video was released last month, is due to return Tuesday afternoon from a family vacation in Cuba.
Over the weekend, Chicago Police shot and killed two other people, a 55-year-old woman who was shot accidentally and a 19-year-old man whom police have said was “combative” before he was shot. The department will not say how many officers fired their weapons or what the two people were doing before they were shot.
Al Jazeera and wire services