For the first time in almost 50 years, a Chicago police officer was convicted of second-degree murder for an on-duty shooting. This is extremely rare, as the court typically sides with the police in cases of excessive force as we’ve been hearing in the latest season of the hit podcast Serial. The officer convicted had a history of using excessive force (without any repercussions or consequences) including 20 citizen complaints, eight of which alleged excessive force.
The case involved a shooting back in 2014 where a white police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old African-American boy. The victim’s name was Laquan McDonald and he had only been carrying a knife in the incident when the police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shot the boy 16 times within seconds of arriving on the scene. Video footage from a squad car showed a scene under control where police officers had Laquan surrounded and were just waiting for another officer to arrive with a stun gun. It clearly showed Van Dyke arriving and opening fire, as Laquan walked away and continued to shoot even as he laid on the ground.
“What we do know, what he (Van Dyke) did see, was a black boy walking down the street… having audacity to ignore the police.” ~ Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon via TIME magazine
This trial brings justice to the family of Laquan with the murder conviction as well as the reforms it sparked in the Chicago police department. As a result of the case, the mayor fired the city’s police superintendent and voters ousted the county’s top prosecutor. In addition, the case led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation which found a “pervasive cover-up culture” within the force.