Chicago residents are bracing themselves for an upcoming verdict in Jason Van Dyke‘s trial from a jury who will hear closing arguments on Thursday. They are anticipating an outcome that could bring justice for Laquan McDonald or acquit Van Dyke.
A failed prosecution of Van Dyke — the white cop charged in the October 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old McDonald — would likely be a disastrous blow for Black Chicagoans and people of color across the nation. Police brutality and shooting cases have long brought unrest and protest into communities of color — a fact that suggests the city could reach a fever pitch if Van Dyke walks free.
“I feel Chicago is going to be in a lot of trouble if this man [Van Dyke] walks free,” Marcus Wallace, 35, a gas station security guard, told NBC News before referring to the dash cam video that Van Dyke’s testimony had contradicted during the trial. “That video is indisputable, and if a jury doesn’t see that…Lord help us.”
Authorities charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct after the police video appeared to show that he fired 16 times at McDonald. The video, released one year after McDonald’s death, showed that he fired after the teen walked away and continued to shoot when he fell to the pavement.
Van Dyke said that McDonald had kept walking towards him with a knife during his testimony Tuesday.
With his testimony, allegations of Chicago police misconduct, and a coverup, controversy surrounds Van Dyke and the whole department. Yet, high-profile prosecutions are rare in the city despite its department being notoriously accused of corruption, especially with its interactions with residents of color.
If Van Dyke is not prosecuted, then protests and boycotts will happen in Chicago, activists said to NBC. Chicago police are planning to ramp up their patrols, but that won’t stop activists from holding peaceful demonstrations. Advocates hope that the right verdict will come in Van Dyke’s trial.