Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Justice for Laquan McDonald

The New York Times reports that:
CHICAGO — A white Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder on Tuesday in the death of a 17-year-old black man, just hours before city officials appealed for calm as they released a chilling video of the officer shooting the teenager as he lay crumpled on the ground.

The grainy, nighttime dashboard camera video, which a judge ordered released last week, shows the young man running and then walking past officers in the middle of the street and spinning when bullets suddenly strike him down. For a moment, lying on the ground, he moves but then is still after he appears to be shot several more times. An officer kicks an object away from his body. The video shows none of the officers on the scene offering assistance to the teenager, Laquan McDonald...

On the evening of Oct. 20, 2014, police officers approached Mr. McDonald on the city’s Southwest Side, prosecutors said, after a resident reported seeing him breaking into trucks and stealing radios. Mr. McDonald, who had the folding knife in his hand, walked away as officers arrived. Someone called for a police unit with a stun gun, though it was not clear whether anyone ever appeared with one. At one point, Mr. McDonald “popped” the tire on a police car, apparently with his knife, the prosecutors said.

With more officers arriving car by car, Mr. McDonald kept walking and jogging along, not responding to orders to drop the knife, prosecutors said. Near a Burger King along a busy stretch of Pulaski Road, Officer Van Dyke’s marked Chevrolet Tahoe pulled up alongside other police vehicles, including one containing a dashboard camera. Officer Van Dyke was on the scene for fewer than 30 seconds, prosecutors said, before he began shooting his service weapon, which had a 16-round capacity.

The shooting spanned 14 or 15 seconds, and in about 13 of those seconds, prosecutors say, Mr. McDonald was lying on the ground. He was hit 16 times, including in his backside. An autopsy showed the presence of the drug PCP in his system.
This tragic story raises two important questions. Why did it take Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez a whole damn year to file charges against Officer Van Dyke? The video clearly shows that Laquan McDonald was approximately 15 feet away from the officers. He did not lunge toward, approach or threaten the officers with the knife. In fact, Laquan was attempting to walk past the officers. While Laquan was on the ground, Officer Van Dyke fired most of his shots. It does not take an entire year to figure out the obvious. Officer Van Dyke murdered Laquan.

As reported in The Times-Pacayune, when two black Marksville, Louisiana police officers, Norris Greenhouse Jr., 23, and Lt. Derrick Stafford, 32, killed a six year-old white boy, Jeremy Mardis, those officers were arrested and charged with second-degree murder three days after the killing. In the Jeremy Mardis case, there was video evidence from body cameras. In Marksville, the authorities did not need a whole year to analyze the footage and interview thousands of witnesses. They only needed three days to reach a decision.

Yet, the Cook County State's Attorney actually expects us to actually believe that she needed an entire year to reach an obvious conclusion. There is no rational justification for Cook County's delay in filing charges against that Office Van Dyke.  Apparently, when the victim is white, justice is swift. When the victim is black, justice is frequently delayed and denied.

Second, why was Officer Van Dyke never disciplined for prior offenses?  As reported on ABC 7 News, at least 18 prior citizen complaints were filed against Officer Van Dyke. Eight of those complaints alleged excessive force and two involved use a firearm. According to the news reports, some of the complaints allege that Officer Van Dyke used racial slurs. Yet, the Police Department never disciplined Office Van Dyke. Instead, they unleashed that rabid dog on the people of Chicago.

Unfortunately, this is not a case of "one bad apple." It is about a police department that is rotten to the core. The police department failed to hold that officer responsible for his conduct. If Officer Van Dyke was properly disciplined for his prior alleged misconduct, perhaps Laquan would still be alive today. Laquan's blood is on Officer Van Dyke's hands and the Chicago Police Department's hands.

No amount of blood money paid to Laquan's family will silence the people's righteous demand for justice. We will remain vigilant.  Enough is enough. Justice for Laquan McDonald, Jamar Clark and everybody else.

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