CHICAGO, (Reuters) – A white Chicago policeman who fatally shot a black teenager was charged with murder yesterday, hours before authorities released a long-awaited video that shows the youth walking away from officers as he is slain by a volley of 16 gunshots.
The graphic footage of last year’s shooting, taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of a police car and made public under orders from a judge, sparked mostly peaceful street demonstrations in Chicago on Tuesday.
The clip showed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who authorities said was carrying a pocket knife and had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system, as he was gunned down in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014. McDonald is seen jogging away from patrol vehicles pursuing him from behind, and then veering off diagonally at a walk as two more officers pull up in a squad car ahead of him.
Two policemen are seen jumping out of their vehicle in the center of the road, and drawing their weapons while advancing toward McDonald, who continues to move away. Within seconds he is struck by bullets, spins and crumples to the ground, his body jerking as he is hit by additional rounds of gunfire.
Cook County’s chief prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, acknowledged that she timed the filing of the first-degree murder charge against officer Jason Van Dyke to precede the video’s disclosure in a bid to mute harsh public reaction to the footage.
“With release of this video it’s really important for public safety that the citizens of Chicago know that this officer is being held responsible for his actions,” she said.
Van Dyke became the first Chicago police officer charged with murder for an on-duty incident in decades.