It’s been nearly four years since former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who’s white, gunned down Laquan McDonald. On Wednesday, protesters outside the courthouse where Van Dyke stands trial said that justice for the Black teenager is long overdue.
“We’re out here defending justice and, for people who don’t know, we want to raise people’s consciousness about Laquan McDonald. It’s been close to four years since the shooting happened. It’s been three years since [Van Dyke] has been charged. And we want justice. It’s time for him to face the music about what he did,” community activist William Calloway told the Chicago Tribune.
The jury selection process started early Wednesday morning in the high-profile shooting that has Chicago on edge. Van Dyke stands accused of first-degree murder.
Police officers encountered 17-year-old McDonald on the evening of Oct. 20, 2014, after receiving a complaint about a suspect trying to break into vehicles, according to police officials. Two officers followed the Black teen in their patrol vehicle from a distance before calling for a backup officer with a Taser.
Van Dyke, one of the back-up officers who arrived, allegedly got out of his vehicle with his gun drawn and started shooting as McDonald moved slightly away from him. He continued firing, for a total of 16 times, even after the teenager fell to the ground.
Making matter worse, there was evidence of a likely police cover-up, as fellow officers were accused of helping Van Dyke hide his alleged misdeeds. Van Dyke claimed that the teenager was moving toward him when he opened fire, but police dash camera video showed that was a lie.
It took a judge’s order, about 13 months after the shooting, to have the video released to the public—against the will of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The release of the video and angry protests led to the arrest of Van Dyke, who has said that he was only doing his job during the encounter.
The odds suggest that Van Dyke could walk free. Police officers are seldom charged and found guilty of murder for an on-duty shooting. Indeed, 1970 was the last time a Chicago police officer was convicted of an on-duty murder, according to The Tribune.
Protesters continue to hope for a different outcome.