In 2014, 17 year old Laquan McDonald was killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald was shot sixteen times and the video was withheld from public view until a judge ordered it released to the public recently. McDonald was holding a small knife and apparently moving away from the officers but was shot repeatedly again and again once on the ground. The family was paid 5 million dollars in a settlement with the City of Chicago, but the video was withheld from public view for more than a year. No charges were brought against the officer until a whistleblower brought the dash-cam video to the attention of a local journalist who then sued the city to have it released.
On Tuesday November 24 the city charged Jason Van Dyke with the murder of Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke had a long history of citizen complaints against him including several brutality complaints. Additionally, it was reported that following the shooting Chicago officers went into Burger King near the scene and deleted surveillance video that existed.
It is clear that the city knew all the facts of the case for more than a year, settled with the family and did nothing to discipline, remove the officer from duty or bring charges until the court ordered release of the video forced the hand of the city.
The City of Chicago’s Police Department has a long and painful history associated with police brutality reaching back decades. There are approximately 50 police shootings each year in Chicago and historically police are almost never charged with criminal violations. The murder charges being brought in the Laquan McDonald case are essentially unprecedented in Chicago history. Protests have ensued since the release of the video and activists are calling for the removal of Police Chief Garry McCarthy, the State’s attorney Anita Alvarez and other people who covered up the case.