Chicago Police Reports of Laquan McDonald’s Actions Differ from Dashcam Video

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The Chicago Police Department released the after action reports written by the officers involved in the 2014 shooting of an African American teen on Friday, but those accounts differ significantly from the details seen in the dashcam video of the shooting that sparked a week of protests in the Windy City.

The city also released the written reports of Officer Jason Van Dyke–the officer who fired sixteen rounds into the teen–his partner, and several other officers who were on the scene during the incident. But these written reports do not comport with the video of the teen’s death.

According to the Chicago Tribune, one report claimed that McDonald was advancing on officers in an “aggressive, exaggerated manner” before officer Van Dyke fired at the teen.

The handwritten statements all seem to agree that McDonald was a threat to officers, thereby justifying the shooting.

The Tribune also reports that another police account filled with shorthand abbreviations also makes the claim that the teen was advancing on officers and threatening them with the knife he was carrying.

“VD [short for officer Van Dyke] believed O [offender] was attacking w/knife,” said a report. “Trying to kill VD. In defense of his life, VD backpedaled + fired. O fell to ground, continued to move/grasp knife. VD continued firing. O appeared to be attempting to get up, still holding knife. Pointing at VD.”

This claim that the O [“offender,” McDonald] continued to try to get back up and grasp the knife in a threatening manner, though, differs from the dashcam video that shows the teen falling to the ground upon the officer’s first shots and then moving only in a convulsive manner when each further round was pumped into him as he lay on the street.

Even before the shooting began, the video does not show McDonald advancing on officers and wildly gesturing with the knife as the written reports seem to claim, but rather sidling away from officers while keeping his knife hand down to his side.

The release of the reports are sure to spark protesters all over again to their demands that change come to the city and its police department.

After the city of Chicago delayed its release for a full year and some six months after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was safely re-elected, the police dashcam video of the last minutes of the life of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released.

But as it happens, the only reason the city released the video is because a local journalist took the city to court for violating a Freedom of Information Act request. But once the video was made public, the city erupted in a week of protests with activists flooding the streets and demanding change.

At the end of that week of protests Mayor Emanuel fired his top cop and promised to create a committee to help him chose a new police superintendent and make changes to the culture of the police department. But activists are unsatisfied and want both Cook Country Prosecutor, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, and even the mayor himself to resign.

The release of the reports aren’t likely to result in any repercussions against the officers involved, however, as federal case law prevents the possibility that written reports can be used to prosecute police for misconduct.

The city declared the shooting as justified in December of 2014, but this year the city still approved a $5 million payout to the teen’s mother even though she was declared unfit years ago and had Laquan removed from her custody.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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