Chicago police officer found guilty of murder for the death of Laquan McDonald
A jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder today, Friday October 5th, for the killing of Laquan McDonald. Four years ago, the white officer fired 16 shots at McDonald, killing the black teenager.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Van Dyke was initially charged with first-degree murder, but the jury in his trial found him guilty of second-degree murder instead (which essentially means it was deemed intentional but not premeditated). The officer was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery—one for each shot he fired at 17-year-old McDonald. He is the first Chicago officer in 50 years to be convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting, and he faces a minimum of six years in prison.
CNN notes that dashcam footage of McDonald’s murder, which was released about a year after the shooting, caused an uproar when it revealed that Van Dyke fired at McDonald just six seconds after arriving on the scene. The officer, who initially claimed self-defense, shot the teenager 16 times. After the video of Van Dyke’s actions became public, protests broke out, the Chicago police superintendent was fired, and a civil rights investigation was opened by the Justice Department.
In a statement provided to NBC Chicago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Eddie Johnson sent a message of continued cooperation.
"Today, the jury reached its verdict," the statement read. "As we absorb their decision, let us continue to hear each other and partner with each other—as public servants, police and members of the public—and let us ensure our collective mission is what endures for generations to come."
The ruling in Van Dyke’s case follows the August 28th conviction of former Texas police officer Roy Oliver. As The Washington Post reports, Oliver was found guilty of murder for the 2017 shooting of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed, black 15-year-old.
It’s extremely rare for police officers to be charged in deadly shootings, and even rarer still, to be found guilty of murder. In March 2018, Black Lives Matter activists were outraged to learn that the officers who shot Alton Sterling in 2016 would not be charged. And according to a study from the Bowling Green State University Criminal department, only 35% of officers arrested between 2005 and 2017 for murder or manslaughter were actually convicted.
We can only hope that this most recent ruling is the beginning of reform within our criminal justice system. Because black lives matter, and justice is long overdue.