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Chicago police officer charged with murder in shooting of black teenager
Chicago police officer charged with murder in shooting of black teenager as city releases video footage
Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a police officer here with first-degree murder for fatally shooting a black teenager last year in an incident captured on a graphic video that the Chicago Police Department released later in the day.
City officials said they were preparing for heated protests to follow the release of the video, which depicts Jason Van 🤬 , a white 14-year veteran of the police force, drawing his weapon on Laquan McDonald, an African American teen carrying a knife who appears to be crossing a major thoroughfare.
As McDonald veers away from the officers, Van 🤬 begins firing, felling McDonald immediately, and then shoots repeatedly into his prone body. A total of 16 shots were fired, all the ammunition in the officer’s clip.
“The officer in this case took a young man’s life and he’s going to have to account for his actions, and that’s what today is all about,” Garry F. McCarthy, the Chicago police superintendent. McCarthy called on city residents to demonstrate peacefully.
“People have a right to be angry,” he said. “People have a right to protest, people have a right to free speech. But they do not have a right to commit criminal acts.”
The video’s release arrives at a time of heightened racial tension nationally, and amid intensified scrutiny of police forces following a series of fatal encounters between law enforcement and black men and boys. It is rare for a police officer to be charged in a fatal shooting, and the first-degree murder count is the most severe Van 🤬 could have faced.
Earlier in the day, police in Minneapolis said they had taken three men into custody after gunshots were fired at protesters at a “Black Lives Matter” rally in that city, wounding five demonstrators them in an attack that inflamed tensions already high over a recent police killing of an unarmed black man.
The unrest, propelled into the public eye after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last year, has included a wave of demonstrations in city streets and debates on college campuses across the country.
The rapid developments on Tuesday — an officer charged, a horrific video’s release — recalled similar situations that unfolded this year. Officials in North Charleston, S.C., and Cincinnati released similar videos showing officers fatally shooting black men, and in both cases they also announced murder charges the same day. In both cities, protests followed, but they were far less heated than those seen in cities like Ferguson and New York after grand juries declined to indict officers.
Chicago officials appeared before the media in the late afternoon, acknowledging the likely public outcry over the video and also calling on city residents to avoid violence in repsonse. In a statement, the McDonald family asked “for calm in Chicago.”
“No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful,” the statement said. “Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name.”
Anita Alvarez, the state’s attorney for Cook County, Ill., said in outlining the charges against Van 🤬 that the officer’s actions “were not a proper use of deadly force.”
“He abused his authority, and I don’t believe the use of force was necessary,” Alvarez said. She also said: “With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands.”
Van 🤬 was the only officer to fire at McDonald, who police said used his knife to slash the tires of a squad car when he cnountered the officers. He was on the scene near McDonald for less than 30 seconds before he began firing, Alvarez said.
Van 🤬 ’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, has said the officer feared for his life when he opened fire.
“We hold our police officers to a high standards and obviously in this case Jason Van 🤬 violated….basic moral standards that bind our community together,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said at a news conference announcing the video’s release.
In April, the Chicago City Council approved a $5 million dollar settlement to McDonald’s relatives. But some in the community say they are angry it took Alvarez’s office so long to charge Van 🤬 .
“There is no way this length of time should have gone on so long when the video showed all this evidence,” Michael Pfleger, a Catholic priest in Chicago, said Tuesday. “Shame on them for being so late.”
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