DNAinfo Chicago’s big scoop today was the sickening dashcam video of the murder of Laquan McDonald. Earlier this afternoon, they also released the charging documents, which lay out the case against Officer Jason Van Dyke.
The documents detail Van Dyke’s unprovoked shooting of McDonald, but also shed some light on the extent to which civilian witnesses were vastly more honest and trustworthy in their accounts of the shooting than were police, whose initial story delivered the usual line about a young black shooting victim inexplicably charging armed cops, who feared for their lives.
First, the shooting:
An analysis of the video establishes that 14 to 15 seconds passed from the time defendant fired his first shot to clear visual evidence of a final shot. For approximately 13 of those seconds, McDonald is lying on the ground. Of the eight or more officers on the scene, only defendant fired his weapon.
According to the Cook County Medical Examiner, McDonald was shot 16 times and that the multiple gunshot wounds caused his death. He suffered wounds to his scalp, neck, left chest, right chest, left elbow (2), left forearm, right upper arm (4), right hand, right upper leg (2), left upper back, and right lower back. Toxicology test results showed that there was PCP in his system.
Only two of these wounds can be definitively linked to the time when McDonald was standing: the right lower back, and one of the right upper leg shots. Only the shot to McDonald’s right hand can definitively be linked to the time when McDonald was on the ground. Two of the shots would have been rapidly fatal, although none was immediately fatal. The Medical Examiner determined that the manner of McDonald’s death was homicide.
Defendant was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, in addition to the fact that he starts shooting approximately six seconds after having gotten out of his car.
The video clearly does not show McDonald advancing on defendant. None of the officers have reported that they saw anything substantially different from what the video shows at the time of the first shot. None of the officers observed McDonald attempt to throw his knife at defendant, jump or lunge toward Van Dyke, raise his knife as if to stab defendant, or did anything that was obviously threatening toward defendant beyond what was depicted in the video and not responding to commands while carrying a knife.
OK, so, here’s the account of the shooting given by Pat Camden of the Fraternal Order of Police, back in October 2014, when the video was safely under the protection of Chicago’s legal justice apparatus (emphasis is mine):
“He’s got a 100-yard stare. He’s staring blankly,” Camden said of the teen. “[He] walked up to a car and stabbed the tire of the car and kept walking.”
Officers remained in their car and followed McDonald as he walked south on Pulaski Road. More officers arrived and police tried to box the teen in with two squad cars, Camden said. McDonald punctured one of the squad car’s front passenger-side tires and damaged the front windshield, police and Camden said.
Officers got out of their car and began approaching McDonald, again telling him to drop the knife, Camden said. The boy allegedly lunged at police, and one of the officers opened fire.
McDonald was shot in the chest and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m. He lived in the 500 block of North Springfield Avenue, about 5 miles from where he was shot.
Camden said a knife was recovered from the scene. A statement from Police News Affairs said no officers were injured.
Camden said none of the officers who responded had a Taser to use on the teen and were trying to detain him long enough for one to arrive. He said officers were forced to defend themselves.
“When police tell you to drop a weapon, all you have to do is drop it,” Camden said.
Individual A was a motorist stopped in traffic on Pulaski when he saw McDonald walking in the street immediately before he was shot. Individual A described McDonald as looking for a way to get away from police. According to Individual A, McDonald never moved toward, lunged at, or did anything threatening towards the officers before he was shot and fell to the ground. Individual A heard a pause in the shots after McDonald fell to the ground, but then heard more shots. Individual A also did not see McDonald do anything threatening while lying on the ground that would cause the officer to continue shooting him.
Individual B was a passenger in Individual A’s vehicle. Individual B saw defendant shoot McDonald who fell to the ground. There was about a four second pause when Individual B saw McDonald move “a little” while lying on the ground and then defendant fired another 5-6 rounds. It appeared to Individual B that McDonald was moving away from the defendant when defendant fired his first shot. Individual B did not see McDonald charge the officers or do anything threatening to them before he was shot.
So, this guy from the Fraternal Order of Police isn’t necessarily representative of all police. Nor is Van Dyke. And these eyewitnesses aren’t necessarily representative of all eyewitnesses. Sure. Hashtag Not All Police.
The same people arguing for months to keep the video out of the public eye were also spending that time influencing the public to believe Laquan McDonald attacked police. If they’d had their way, none of us would ever have been the wiser.