'It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling' - Police release footage of officer shooting black teen 16 times

At the time of his death, police were responding to complaints about someone breaking into cars and stealing radios.

Laquan McDonald AP AP

VIDEO FOOTAGE OF a black teenager being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer has been released following an order by a judge in the United States.

City officials and community leaders were bracing for the release of the dash-cam video, fearing the kind of turmoil that occurred in cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, after young black men were slain by police or died in police custody.

A judge ordered that the recording be made public by today. Moments before it was released, the mayor and the police chief appealed for calm.

“People have a right to be angry. People have a right to protest. People have a right to free speech. But they do not have a right to … criminal acts,” Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

Dash cam footage 

The relevant portion of the video runs for less than 40 seconds, about five minutes in, and has no audio.

FOX 10 Phoenix / YouTube

Laquan McDonald, 17, swings into view on a four-lane street where police vehicles are stopped in the middle of the road. As he jogs down an empty lane, he appears to pull up his pants and then slows to a brisk walk, veering away from two officers who are emerging from a vehicle and drawing their guns.

Almost immediately, one of the officers appears to fire from close range. McDonald spins around and crumples to the pavement.

The car with the camera continues to roll forward until the officers are out of the frame. Then McDonald can be seen lying on the ground, moving occasionally. At least two small puffs of smoke are seen coming off his body as the officer continues firing.

In the final moments, an officer kicks something out of McDonald’s hands.

Police have said the teen had a knife. Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said yesterday that a 3-inch knife with its blade folded into the handle was recovered from the scene.


Shortly after the video’s release, protesters began marching through city streets. Several hundred people blocked traffic. Some circled police cars at a junction and chanted “16 shots.”

“I’m so hurt and so angry,” said Jedidiah Brown, an activist and pastor who had just seen the video. “I can feel pain through my body.”

APTOPIX Killings By Police Chicago Chicago police scuffle with protesters. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune via AP (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune via AP / Chicago Tribune via AP

Groups of demonstrators, at times numbering in the hundreds, marched through streets in the downtown and nearby South Side areas, gathering at one point outside the police department’s District 1 headquarters.

Later, along Michigan Avenue, at least one person was detained, which led to a tense moment as protesters tried to prevent police from taking him away. Some threw plastic water bottles at officers and sat behind a police vehicle, refusing to move. Officers pulled them away, and the vehicle sped off.

The biggest group had mostly dissipated by 11pm, with a few dozen returning to the District 1 building. Another group of at least 50 people briefly blocked a busy road before walking toward a lakefront park. A few yelled at police officers, others chanted as they blocked a street.

City officials spent months arguing that the footage could not be made public until the conclusion of several investigations. After the judge’s order, the investigations were quickly wrapped up and a charge announced.

Killings By Police Chicago Chicago police officers struggle with protestors. Paul Beaty / AP Paul Beaty / AP / AP


Alvarez defended the 13 months it took to charge officer Jason Van Dyke. She said cases involving police present “highly complex” legal issues and that she would rather take the time to get it right than “rush to judgment.”

Alvarez said concern about the impending release prompted her to move up the announcement of the murder charge.

“It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling,” she said.

To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing. I have absolutely no doubt that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.

But she insisted that she made a decision “weeks ago” to charge Van Dyke and the video’s ordered release did not influence that.

Some community leaders said there was no doubt that Alvarez only brought charges because of the order to release the video from 20 October 2014.

“This is a panicky reaction to an institutional crisis within the criminal justice system,” said the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who said he hoped to see “massive” but peaceful demonstrations.

Months after McDonald’s death, the city agreed to a $5 million (€4.7 million) settlement with his family, even before relatives filed a lawsuit.

Killings By Police Chicago Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. Associated Press Associated Press

The city’s hurried attempts to defuse tensions also included a community meeting, official statements of outrage at the officer’s conduct and an abrupt announcement on Monday night that another officer who has been the subject of protests for months might now be fired.

“You had this tape for a year, and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm,” the Reverend Corey Brooks said of Monday’s community gathering with the mayor.

Shot in the back

An autopsy report showed that McDonald was shot at least twice in his back and PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, was found in his system.


At the time of his death, police were responding to complaints about someone breaking into cars and stealing radios.

Van Dyke, who was denied bond, was the only officer of the several who were on the scene to open fire.

Alvarez said the officer emptied his 9mm pistol of all 16 rounds and that he was on the scene for just 30 seconds before he started shooting.

She said he opened fire just six seconds after getting out of his vehicle and kept firing even though McDonald dropped to the ground after the initial shots.

At yesterday’s hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Delaney said the shooting lasted 14 or 15 seconds and that McDonald was on the ground for 13 of those seconds.

Jason Van Dyke Cook County Sheriff's Office shows Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. Cook County Sheriff's Office via AP Cook County Sheriff's Office via AP

Van Dyke’s lawyer, Dan Herbert, maintains his client feared for his life and acted lawfully and that the video does not tell the whole story. Van Dyke, stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty since the shooting.

Herbert said the case needs to be tried in a courtroom and “can’t be tried in the streets, can’t be tried on social media and can’t be tried on Facebook”.

Chicago police also moved late on Monday to discipline a second officer who shot and killed an unarmed black woman in 2012.

McCarthy recommended firing officer Dante Servin for the shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, saying Servin showed “incredibly poor judgment.” A judge acquitted Servin of involuntary manslaughter and other charges last April.

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