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Chicago Police Release Video Of Officer Shooting Teen


Chicago police officials have now released a video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times last year, killing him. Those who have seen the video describe it as graphic and disturbing, and it was made public just hours after the officer who fired the shots was charged with first-degree murder. Now protesters are in the streets of Chicago while city leaders call for calm. From Chicago, NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: In the prelude leading up to the long-awaited release of a police vehicle's dashboard camera video of the shooting, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel repeatedly called on those expected to demonstrate over this latest incident, of what prosecutors call an unnecessary and criminal use of force, to protest peacefully.


RAHM EMANUEL: I believe this is a moment that can build bridges of understanding rather than become a barrier of misunderstanding.

SCHAPER: Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy acknowledges the Chicago Police Department needs to improve relations with residents, especially with members of the African-American community. And he says his police force will facilitate people's First Amendment right to protest in reaction to the video, but he says the city will not tolerate violence.


GARRY MCCARTHY: People have a right to be angry, people have a right to protest, people have a right to free speech, but they do not have a right to commit criminal acts.

SCHAPER: But containing emotions may be difficult for some after seeing the raw dash cam video in which 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is seen walking, and at times jogging, down the middle of a busy Chicago street as he tries to get away from responding officers. He is seen holding, and at one time waving, a three-inch folding knife in his hand. But as Officer Jason Van Dyke gets out of his marked sport utility vehicle, the teenager moves away.

In filing the first- degree murder charge against Officer Van Dyke, Cook County state's attorney Anita Alvarez says McDonald is clearly not a threat as the officer raises his weapon and takes aim.


ANITA ALVAREZ: The officer then opened fire on Laquan, whose arm jerks, his body spins around, and he falls to the ground.

SCHAPER: With only the fallen and wounded body visible on the street, Alvarez says Officer Van Dyke continued to fire a total of 16 shots into the teenager.


ALVAREZ: It is my determination that this defendant's actions of shooting Laquan McDonald when he did not pose an immediate threat of great bodily harm or death were not justified and they were not a proper use of deadly force by this police officer.

SCHAPER: The video of the incident, Alvarez warns, is violent, graphic and chilling.


ALVAREZ: To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing, and I have absolutely no doubt that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.

SCHAPER: Van Dyke's defense lawyer says the 37-year-old officer should be afforded the same presumption of innocence given to anyone charged with a crime. Attorney Dan Herbert worries the dashboard camera video of the shooting won't give the public the full picture of what really happened.


DAN HERBERT: The judgment made by individuals that view this tape from the comfort of their living room and their sofa, it's not the same standard as the perspective from my client.

SCHAPER: Officer Van Dyke is being held without bond in the Cook County Jail. He appears in court again Monday. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.