The Slatest

Chicago Waits for Verdict in Laquan McDonald Police Shooting

Jason Van Dyke outside a Chicago courthouse
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke arrives on Sept. 5 at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building, where he stands trial for the 2014 homicide of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Four years after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer more than a dozen times, the cop, Jason Van Dyke, could soon face a verdict as a jury began deliberating Thursday. Update, 1:55 p.m: The jury has reached a verdict, which will be read shortly, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The shooting was recorded by a police dashboard camera, and the video kicked off massive protests and helped catalyze deeper dissatisfaction with Chicago’s political and police leadership from the city’s black residents. Not only was the video itself inflammatory, it had to be extracted from the Chicago Police Department by a judge’s order more than a year after the shooting and right after Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.

The video showed that McDonald—rather than “lunging” toward officers with a knife, as the police union had alleged—was walking past and then away from the officers before he was shot. The officers were originally responding to a call that someone was breaking into cars.

The three-week trial included, according to the New York Times, jurors seeing the video “over and over” and hearing testimony from another officer who had a Taser, “which might have defused the situation,” and arrived on the scene “less than a minute after Laquan was shot.”

The defense argued that “Laquan had a menacing look in his eye” and “angled the knife in [Van Dyke’s] direction,” the Times reported. The defense also brought forward witnesses who said that McDonald “had acted up while in juvenile detention and used drugs.”

Prosecutors charged three of Van Dyke’s fellow officers with trying to cover up Van Dyke’s role in the shooting. According to a court document released to the Chicago Sun Times as part of a lawsuit, a group of officers, beyond the three who were charged, “began working to keep him out of trouble almost immediately after he shot Laquan McDonald, and detectives and higher-ranking officers continued to try to protect him even months after the department cleared him of wrongdoing.”