CHICAGO — As the city braces for the imminent release of a video showing a white Chicago police officer fatally shooting an African-American teen, the veteran officer is expected to appear in a Cook County courtroom Tuesday to face a charge of first-degree murder, according to multiple sources.
Officer Jason Van Dyke is shown on the police dash-cam video jumping out of his squad car and within seconds unloading 16 rounds into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, lawyers for McDonald’s family have said. After the first few shots knocked McDonald to the ground, Van Dyke fired another volley that struck the teen repeatedly as his body lay in almost a fetal position, according to the lawyers.
McDonald had been acting erratically and was holding a small knife, authorities said. Van Dyke’s lawyer has said the officer feared for his life.
Van Dyke, 37, who has been on paid desk duty since the October 2014 incident, is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing at noon Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th Street and California Avenue, the sources said.
Federal authorities continue to investigate whether Van Dyke violated McDonald’s civil rights protecting him from excessive force by the police. A federal grand jury has heard testimony from dozens of witnesses over the course of several months.
A judge has ordered that the potentially inflammatory video be made public by Wednesday. The city lost a court fight last week to keep the video under wraps when the judge ruled in favor of a freelance journalist who sued under the state’s open records law.
Lawyers for McDonald’s family, who won a $5 million settlement from the city even before filing a lawsuit, have said Van Dyke emptied his Smith & Wesson 9 mm semi-automatic handgun. None of the five other officers at the scene fired a shot, according to city officials.
McDonald’s autopsy found he was shot once on each side of his chest and suffered single bullet wounds to the scalp and neck, two to his back, seven in his arms, one to his right hand and two to his right leg. According to the report, nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward or slightly downward trajectory.
The Tribune in April first revealed that Van Dyke was the officer who shot and killed McDonald after city officials refused to disclose his identity, citing a provision in the union contract that bars the city from identifying officers unless they’re convicted of a crime or the police board rules on their case. Police stripped him of his police powers and put him on paid desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation.
— Jeremy Gorner, Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune.