It took a year, but a white police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times in Chicago has finally been charged with first-degree murder. The shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17, by Officer Jason Van Dyke was captured on the dashboard camera.
In the video, Laquan can be seen walking briskly away from two officers. Officer Van Dyke is seen firing his weapon within seconds of emerging from his patrol car. Because the dashcam footage is so graphic, we instinctively understand why police and city officials worked tirelessly to prevent the video from ever being seen by the public, but it nonetheless is outrageous that it took so long and a judge’s order for it to be released last week. Given the intense public interest in the shooting, the family of the slain teenager and the citizens of Chicago deserved speedier justice.
No one can look at the smoke and sparks leaping from Laquan’s prone body and not agree that there’s a problem with either the Chicago Police Department’s protocol for when to use lethal force, or a problem with Officer Van Dyke. Perhaps it is both. Civil rights leaders rightly are demanding a federal investigation.
Van Dyke became the first police officer in Chicago to be charged with first-degree murder in 35 years.
Like any defendant, Van Dyke should be presumed innocent, but the good people of Chicago can take solace in the fact that his conduct finally will be subject to scrutiny in a court of law.