A white Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder and denied bail Tuesday in the 2014 fatal shooting of a black 17-year-old boy. The court-ordered public release of dashcam video footage of the shooting had Chicago police anticipating protests or civil unrest despite calls for calm from the teen's family, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The officer, 37-year-old Jason Van Dyke, shot Laquan McDonald 16 times in an on-duty incident that occurred on the southwest side of Chicago. Van Dyke turned himself in to authorities in connection with the shooting, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
The indictment of Van Dyke marks the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in almost 35 years, the Chicago Tribune previously reported. The shooting was filmed by via a dashcam, and the footage was described by Van Dyke's attorney Dan Herbert as "graphic and violent," and "difficult to watch," according to NBC Chicago. Herbert also said the video is limited in its scope, however, and does not show the events leading up to the shooting. "The most critical problem is that the video does not depict what my client was seeing. It is not a video from the eyes of my client," he said.
The city has been ordered to release the video by Wednesday, and the Chicago Police Department has ordered most of its force into uniform and warned them of possible long hours in anticipation of the public's reaction to it.
Detectives, tactical teams and other officers who typically work in civilian clothes have been told to wear uniforms through Sunday, according to an internal document the Tribune said it obtained. Officers also reportedly went through "riot control training" and will be required to wear riot gear should it deemed necessary. Detectives might be ordered to patrol "critical facilities," process arrests or respond to other major events not connected with any protests, while foot patrol officers in two downtown districts were warned in the d0ocument that their hours may be adjusted, the Tribune reported. The paper noted that the preparations were not unprecedented and had been taken in other instances in which the department expected large protests or civil unrest.
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Lawyers for McDonald described the footage to the Tribune prior to its release, saying it showed the officer jumping out of his squad car and quickly firing 16 rounds at the teen. The video was described to NBC Chicago as "disturbing," and McDonald's mother reportedly worried it was so graphic it would cause an uproar in the city, according to the family's attorney.
The family released a statement that read, "We deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support for Laquan. This is a difficult time for us. As we have said in the past, while we would prefer that the video not be released we understand that a court has ordered otherwise. We ask for calm in Chicago. No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful. Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that," NBC Chicago reported.
Police have said the shooting was in self-defense, saying McDonald lunged at the officer with a knife while authorities were investigating car break-ins; that claim is disputed by the prosecutor. An autopsy confirmed that the teen was shot 16 times and that he had PCP in his system. The city has paid $5 million to the McDonald family, but many across Chicago called for Van Dyke, who had been put on desk duty after the shooting, to be fired.
Police in Chicago have been involved in 15 shootings between July and September this year, but officers have rarely faced charges for firing their weapons.