Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke Kills Laquan McDonald

Another day, another black person killed by a cop. Based on past experiences there will almost surely be brain dead trolls popping up like mushrooms across social media who will start bleating "what about black-on-black violence" or claim that unless we are law enforcement officials ourselves that we can never really walk in an officer's shoes and thus have no right to judge. Both of those things are stupid deflections. But just for the record, the black criminals who mostly kill other black people and occasionally kill white people, are usually promptly arrested, charged, tried, convicted and sentenced. They don't have (nor should they have) aggressive unions defending them, bosses who will lose evidence, prosecutors who will delay charging them and a friendly media and supportive public (jury pool) who will often frame the worst actions in the most benign light possible. And to the second common deflection, of course police have the right to self-defense and to use deadly force to protect others. No one questions that. If someone is stupid enough to attack a police officer who is acting within the law and gets themselves shot for their trouble you won't find me shedding many tears. No. And whether they like it or not, police officers are indeed not above the law. When they do wrong they should be held to account just like everyone else. Our society can't or rather shouldn't function with a caste of people who can kill at will with no repercussions or consequences. The problem here is that American police officers are overly aggressive towards black people, regardless of whether said black people are committing crimes or not. And when force is used against a black person, it's often considered to be justified, regardless of the actual facts of the case. Cops are very quick to use force against black people, no matter if there is an objective threat or not. Tennis players minding their own business get tackled. Recalcitrant children are slammed to the ground or dragged across classrooms. Men allegedly selling tax free cigarettes are choked to death. Someone driving without a license who might owe child support is shot in the back. Blackness in and of itself seems to justify the force. We've seen this over and over and over again. The most recent example, or rather the example that we just found out about occurred in Chicago in 2014, where CPD officer Jason Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald. He shot him sixteen times. He shot him when McDonald was on the ground. According to details of the charges released in bond court Tuesday, Van Dyke was less than an hour into his overnight shift on the night of the shooting when a call came over the police radio at 9:47 p.m. of a citizen holding McDonald after he had been caught breaking into trucks and stealing radios in a parking lot near 41st Street and Kildare Avenue. Another unit responded first and said over the radio that McDonald was walking away with a knife in his hand, Assistant State’s Attorney William Delaney said. At 9:56 p.m., a beat car reported that McDonald had “popped the tire on their squad car,” Delaney said.

At 9:57 p.m., McDonald can be seen in the video walking away from the officers near the center line of Pulaski Road. Van Dyke and his partner got out of their marked Chevrolet Tahoe with their guns drawn, and Van Dyke took at least one step toward the teen and opened fire from about 10 feet away, Delaney said. “McDonald's arm jerks and his whole body spins around and falls to the ground,” Delaney said.
Alvarez said the video showed McDonald lying on the ground while shots continued to strike his body and the pavement near him, with puffs of debris kicking up and his arms and body jerking as he was hit. In all, Van Dyke was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, and the first shot was fired about six seconds after he exited his squad car, Alvarez said. About 14 or 15 seconds passed between the first and last shots fired by Van Dyke, and for 13 of those seconds, McDonald was on the ground, she said. According to interviews with other officers at the scene, McDonald never spoke to them or responded to commands to drop the knife. Witnesses who were stopped in traffic on Pulaski told authorities that McDonald seemed to be “looking for a way to get away from the police,” Alvarez said. “He never moved toward, lunged at or did anything threatening,” she said. Story link You can see the full video at the end. I don't know how long it will be up. Now again, if McDonald had rushed the officers that would be one thing. But he didn't. And the initial police report claimed that McDonald had lunged at the cops and died of one shot to the chest. Surprise, surprise, police officers lie. Allegedly some other cops tried to delete footage from local surveillance cameras which showed the event. The only reason we're learning about this is that whistleblowers inside the city administration or police department or elsewhere worked with journalists unconvinced by the official narrative to reveal the truth. The city has already settled with McDonald's family to the tune of $5 million. And the fact that Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder is literally unprecedented. That just doesn't happen often with police officers, particularly in Chicago. It remains to be seen whether Van Dyke is convicted of first degree murder. My understanding from friends, family members and associates who are attorneys is that the charge is a very high bar, especially for a police officer who is acting as part of his official duties. It doesn't make me feel great that the district attorney took a year to file charges. She apparently only did so because the video was going to come out.  That doesn't seem like a profile in courage or integrity but perhaps better late than never. Time will tell.

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