CHICAGO — Roughly 50 protesters gathered outside the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Wednesday as the jury selection process began in the Jason Van Dyke murder trial.
The Chicago police officer is charged with first-degree murder, official misconduct and aggravated battery in the October 2014 slaying of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke is currently free on bond.
According to prosecutors, McDonald was stealing car radios and was armed with a 3-inch blade when Chicago police officers in Archer Heights called in a radio request for a Taser on Oct. 20, 2014. An autopsy later revealed McDonald had PCP in his system.
Van Dyke and his partner responded to the call, but never specified whether they had a Taser. Within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke pulled his gun and emptied his magazine into McDonald, shooting the teen 16 times. Video of the shooting, which was released via court order in November 2015, sparked massive protests and prompted federal and local investigations.
Prospective jurors in the murder trial were given questionnaires Wednesday during the first phase of jury selection. The judge has sealed those questionnaires, but they likely cover the police video which has made national news.
Protesters gathered in a sectioned-off area outside the courthouse.
"There were so many people out here today, and we're going to continue to come out here," said Maria Hernandez from Black Lives Matter Chicago. "I know we have a voice because the mayor canceled his re-election the day before this trial started because he knew no matter how much funding he had, he would not be able to overcome the reality we are in."
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a surprise announcement Tuesday when he said he would not seek a third term in office.
Several of McDonald's relatives are inside the courtroom Wednesday. His great uncle, who is a local reverend, called for peace before, during and after the trial.
Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty. His attorneys contend that he feared for his life when he shot the teen, who had a knife.