Jurors watch 3D animation of Laquan McDonald shooting

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Editor's note: Story includes mature language. Discretion advised.

CHICAGO — Jurors on Tuesday watched a 3D-animated video that shows the Laquan McDonald shooting, in part, from Jason Van Dyke's point of view.

The video, created for the defense by a San Francisco firm, takes jurors through the Archer Heights neighborhood to 41st Street and Pulaski Road, where McDonald was shot 16 times just before 10 p.m. Oct. 20, 2014.


Dashcam video, which sparked massive protests upon its release in 2015, shows the shooting from one perspective. The animated video includes that same view — but then pivots to Van Dyke, potentially offering jurors a new perspective on the infamous shooting.

"We can now put the camera over the shoulder of Mr. Van Dyke," said Jason Fries, CEO of 3D-Forensic. His firm created the animation using lasers, drones, dashcam footage, surveillance footage and an autopsy report.

Prosecutors poked holes in the animation Tuesday, noting it was commissioned by the defense with material provided by defense attorneys — and that there were multiple inaccuracies. Van Dyke in the animation, for example, does not wear a bulletproof vest. McDonald's clothing is all black, even though he wore jeans the night of the shooting.

Testimony is slated to continue Wednesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2650 S. California Ave. Van Dyke, 40, is charged with first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery.


1:20 p.m. Testimony is over for the day. Court to resume Wednesday morning

12:22 p.m. Animation shows shooting from Van Dyke's point of view

Jurors on Tuesday watched an animation of the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting that included overhead views of the scene and what McDonald would've looked like from Van Dyke's point of view.

Jason Fries, CEO of 3D-Forensic in San Francisco, has been creating such videos for roughly 20 years. He said the technology was initially used to help engineers rebuild roads and oil rigs.

Using lasers and drones to take measurements, Fries' team constructed a 3D model of the shooting scene. The process is similar to how films like "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc." are created, Fries said.

Evidence like dashcam footage, surveillance footage and an autopsy report then help determine where and how people move within the animation.

The video, which is roughly four minutes long, opens with an overhead view of the Archer Heights neighborhood, where McDonald was shot. Both a radio dispatch and the original 911 call that prompted a police response are played over the video.

It moves overhead to the scene of the shooting, where the viewpoint soon pivots to ground level. The video then toggles between dashcam footage and a 3D animation, showing jurors how and where McDonald moved.

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According to Fries, McDonald moved toward Van Dyke — a direct contradiction to state testimony that said the teen walked away from police.

In the span of four seconds, McDonald moves from a spot that's 39 feet away from Van Dyke to one that's 13 feet away.

"Mr. McDonald was getting closer to Officer Van Dyke up until the time of the shooting," Fries said.

With a series of bright lines, jurors were able to see the trajectory of five of the 16 bullets fired at McDonald. Fries said those were the only bullets he could definitively track. Each hit McDonald while he was still standing, according to the video.

The varying trajectories suggest two possibilities, Fries said: Either there were multiple shooters, or McDonald was spinning as shots were fired. Dashcam video showed the teen spinning, then falling to the ground.

The animation stops once McDonald hits the ground. Two forensic pathologists have testified that at least one of the 16 shots hit McDonald while he was on the ground.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Marilyn Hite Ross harped on the fact that many details were wrong. McDonald wears all black in the video; he wore jeans in dashcam video. Van Dyke isn't wearing a bulletproof vest in the animation; squad car lights aren't flashing; there are no puffs of debris when bullets hit the ground.

When asked about the vest, specifically, Fries said: "It's a detail that's so meaningless to me that I wouldn't spend time trying to figure that out."

Fries also said during cross-examination that he created the video using material provided by the defense.

Jason Fries, an expert in video reconstruction, testifies during the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. Fries heads a California company that specializes in recreating events for law enforcement and other clients. (Antonio Perez/pool/Chicago Tribune)

10:15 a.m. Laquan McDonald's juvenile probation officer testifies

Laquan McDonald's juvenile probation officer, Dina Randazzo, was the first witness called by the defense Tuesday. Only audio of her testimony was allowed to be recorded.

She recalled an Aug. 2013 incident in which McDonald was taken into custody at a juvenile courthouse and became combative with sheriff's deputies. McDonald later said one of the deputies "punched him in the dick." Randazzo said a drug test was ordered. She was aware of the results, she testified, but barred by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan from sharing them in court.

During cross-examination, prosecutors asked whether Van Dyke was aware of the incident Randazzo described. He was not.


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