COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A Chicago Police officer was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder after he fatally shot a knife-wielding teen 16 times in a 2014 run-in that was captured on a dashboard camera.
According to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, it's the first time a Chicago Police officer has been charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.
Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in early Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, where he'll face charges of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke has been assigned to desk duty since fatal shooting. He's since been stripped of his police powers.
Following a brief bond hearing, Cook County Judge Donald Panarese Jr. on Tuesday ordered Van Dyke held without bail until Monday — when Panarese will re-visit the matter after he's had a chance to review the infamous dash-cam footage.
"I'm sorry," Panarese told Van Dyke, who stood before him in faded jeans and a pea-green sweatshirt. "I'm going to have to hold you no bail."
According to prosecutors, Laquan was armed with a knife and stealing radios from trucks near 41st and Pulaski shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2014
When responding officers requested backup with a Taser, Van Dyke and his partner responded, Assistant State's Attorney William Delaney said during a bond hearing Tuesday. Neither Van Dyke nor his partner indicated they had a Taser.
Van Dyke was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he stepped out of his marked SUV and started shooting at Laquan at 9:57 p.m., Delaney said. At the time, the teen was about 10 feet away.
Van Dyke took a step toward Laquan and continued to shoot, emptying his gun, prosecutors said. When Van Dyke paused to reload, his partner told him to stop shooting as the partner went to check on Laquan and kick away the teen's knife, Delaney said.
The partner could hear Laquan struggling to breathe, according to prosecutors. Though Laquan had a pulse on the scene, he was dead by the time he reached a nearby hospital.
There were at least eight other police officers on the scene, Delaney said, but none of them fired at McDonald because they didn't think there was a reason to do so.
Authorities said Laquan was carrying a knife with a 3-inch folding blade and had PCP in his system. At one point, he slashed the tire of a police car, but witnesses said Laquan never lunged at officers and appeared to be trying to get away from police when Van Dyke shot him, Delaney said.
In the dashboard-board camera video, one can see puffs of smoke that were later identified as clouds of debris caused by fired bullet, Delaney said.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office determined that two of Laquan's 16 gunshot wounds were inflicted while the teen was standing. A third shot can definitely be linked to a time when Laquan was on the ground, Delaney said. Laquan was shot in his scalp, neck, left chest, right chest, left elbow, left forearm, right upper arm, right hand, right upper leg, left upper back and right lower back.
Before his client was held without bail, Van Dyke's defense attorney, Dan Herbert, said Van Dyke was not a flight risk, pointing out that Van Dyke has been with CPD for 15 years, is married with two children and does not have a passport.
After the hearing, Herbert said the case against Van Dyke needs to play out in a courtroom, where his client is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
"It needs to be tried in a courtroom where the rules of evidence are at play and the constitution is at play," Herbert said. "This is a case that can't be tried on the streets. It can't be tried in the media. It can't be tried on Facebook."
A circuit-court judge late last week ordered the video be released, and said the city had until Wednesday of this week to do so. Those who have seen the video describe it as horrific.
On Tuesday, Alvarez said: "It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling."
Religious leaders and city officials are expecting large protests.
Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said that there is no such thing as a "good" video of an officer shooting a person. He said he understands the family and community's anger.
"I think that at the end of the day ... I don't know what was in that officer's mind," McCarthy said. "He will have to answer for that."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday Van Dyke would be held "accountable" as he called on Chicagoans to be "peaceful" and "responsible" as they respond to the video's release.
Emanuel did not say when the dashcam video of the shooting would be released, but a judge has ruled it must be out by Wednesday, and others have warned they are "concerned" about the potentially explosive public response.
Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed first reported the video will be released at 3 p.m. Wednesday — and the officer could be charged as soon as Tuesday.
After a media event at the Spertus Museum Monday, called the shooting "a violation of your conscience, and it is wrong, and it was hideous" — before adding that he had not seen the video.
"He was stripped of his police authority," Emanuel said of Van Dyke. "This officer didn't uphold the law — in my view, took the law into his own hand. Didn't build the trust that we want to see and wasn't about protecting safety and security. So at every point he violated" the public trust.
Therefore, Emanuel added, "You're gonna be, in my view, held accountable for that action."
But according to union contract, Emanuel added, Van Dyke cannot be dismissed from the Chicago Police Department until the investigation into the shooting is complete.
Federal and local authorities continue to investigate the shooting, which had already resulted in a $5 million settlement from the city with the McDonald family.
The mayor called upon all city residents to act as "stakeholders" with an interest in preserving the peace.
"Everybody has a role in this city, as stakeholders, to help us to continue to build this city," he said. "People have the right [to protest] and should exercise their First Amendment right," he added, but he urged them to "do it in a focused way, a responsible way, so your voices and your ideas are heard."
Emanuel asked that demonstrations be "peaceful" and serve to "bring healing together."
He had strong words for the media as well, saying, "Your job is to report the news, not see what event to create and then try to report on that."
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