Laquan McDonald – The Troublesome Relationship Between African Americans & The Chicago Police Department
Per the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, the disdain over Chicago police officers’ treatment of African American residents has created a smog of sadness within Illinois, particularly over the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
On October 20, 2014, Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American male, was fatally shot sixteen times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. Described by his great-aunt Carlissa Hunter as the “life of the house”, McDonald is remembered by his loved ones as an optimistic, jovial teenager. At the outset of this case, the shooting was deemed justified because police reports stated that McDonald was holding a folding knife and displaying volatile behavior while walking down a Chicago street. Nonetheless, a dash camera video released in 2015 depicting the incident, revealed that McDonald was not an immediate threat because he was “moving away.” The revelation sparked outrage, led to countless demonstrations against gun violence, and the requests for the Chicago Police Department to be dismantled. Additionally, the United States Justice Department conducted a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department and broadcasted a report about a pattern of prejudiced practices and unwarranted uses of excessive force against minorities by Chicago officers. In 2015, Officer Van Dyke was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct. In 2017, he was also charged with sixteen counts of aggravated battery, representing each shot he fired at McDonald. Later that year, three Chicago police officers, David March, Joseph Walsh, and Thomas Gaffney were indicted for conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice linked to the cover-up of the shooting.
In August 2018, Officer Van Dyke publicly broke his silence and defended his decision to shoot McDonald, citing that his “life was in jeopardy or another citizen’s life was.” Officer Van Dyke’s attorneys defended his decision to speak to reporters by explaining that the interviews were “an attempt to protect himself and his family” from the backlash he had faced. Although Judge Gaughan, of the Cook County Circuit Court acknowledged that the interviews were a breach of bail conditions, he rejected the prosecutor’s requests to completely rescind bail and deferred a contempt of court judgement until after the trial.
In October 2018, Officer Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and sixteen counts of aggravated battery and sentenced to almost seven years in prison. Recently, however, Judge Gaughan reduced Officer Van Dyke’s sentence to less than 3 ½ years, by deciding to combine the aggravated battery convictions into the murder sentencing. Chicago officers David March, Joseph Walsh, and Thomas Gaffney were acquitted of their charges for conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice
If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of police brutality or misconduct or a false arrest by NYPD, contact the attorneys at PetersonDelleCave LLP for a free consultation.