Jury Declares Chicago Police Officer Guilty in Shooting of LaQuan McDonald

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 05: Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, left, is led away after his guilty verdict in his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on October 5, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Antonio Perez - Pool/Getty Images)
Antonio Perez - Pool/Getty Images

On Friday afternoon, a Cook County jury pronounced Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager LaQuan McDonald.

Van Dyke was tried for murdering the 17-year-old in 2014 by shooting him 16 times during a police stop even as all other officers on the scene refrained from firing a single shot.

On Friday, a jury convicted the officer on one count of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm (one for each bullet fired). He was found not guilty of official misconduct.

Officer Van Dyke faces up to life in prison, and the judge revoked his bond after the jury delivered its verdict.

The diverse panel — seven white, one black, three Hispanic, and one Asian — began their deliberations Thursday afternoon on a case that rankled the Windy City after video of the shooting was made public.

In October of 2014, police were called on the teen, who was reportedly high on drugs at the time. Officers found McDonald walking down the street in an agitated state and carrying a small knife. Police confronted the teen and warned him to drop the weapon. Instead of complying, LaQuan McDonald tried to walk away from officers.

At some point during the confrontation, Officer Van Dyke opened fire, shooting the boy 16 times. No other officer on the scene fired their service weapons.

The city paid out a multi-million-dollar settlement to McDonald’s family, and Van Dyke was indicted for the shooting in December of 2015.

Authorities in Chicago were worried that unrest might occur if a not guilty verdict came back. Some schools, for instance, took measures to close down if Van Dyke was found not guilty.

St. Ignatius College Prep, for one, announced a plan in case of unrest. “This is an emotional time for our city, and many activists are calling for people to take to the streets regardless of the outcome of the trial,” Principal Brianna Latko wrote in a letter according to the Chicago Tribune. “Should this occur, it may create potentially dangerous situations around the city.”

The Chicago Police Department had also begun making plans to react quickly if riots broke out upon a not guilty verdict. Reports noted that police brass had been having regular meetings to plan for unrest, Fox News reported.

Still, even with a guilty verdict, authorities are on alert to see if the verdict will satisfy activists and if the city will remain calm over the trial.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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