Closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday in the shooting death of a Chicago teen, Laquan McDonald, who died at the hands of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. The defense rested their case on Wednesday, and as early as this afternoon, a Cook County jury will decide Van Dyke’s fate, and along with it, a message to the world about the value of a black life in Chicago.
Van Dyke took the stand on Tuesday; during his tearful testimony, he tried to refute what dashcam video of the shooting shows—Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times as the teen walked away from him, a mere 6 seconds after Van Dyke jumped out of his police car.
According to CNN, Van Dyke claimed that McDonald “turned his torso toward him” and raised the knife across his body, causing Van Dyke to fear for his life.
And as the Chicago Tribune reports, Van Dyke also claimed—contrary to what both video and an animated recreation of the shooting show—that McDonald tried to get up off the ground after Van Dyke already shot him:
“I could see him starting to push up with his left hand off the ground,” said Van Dyke, taking a long pause and exhaling loudly. “And I see his left shoulder start to come up, and I still see him holding that knife with his right hand not letting go of it. And his eyes are still bugged out. His face has got no expression on it.”
Prosecutor Jody Gleason challenged Van Dyke’s inconsistencies.
“You’ve sat here for several days and watched several videos,” Gleason told Van Dyke. “Have you ever seen Laquan McDonald do that on one of those videos?”
Throughout his testimony, Van Dyke claimed “the video doesn’t show my perspective” because it didn’t show what he saw at eye-level.
When Van Dyke claimed McDonald “got closer” to him during the first six seconds of the encounter, Gleason pointed out that the video shows the officer getting closer to McDonald—not the other way around. Van Dyke also wrongly claimed he had backpedaled—which Gleason also called out.
From the Tribune:
[Van Dyke:] “I thought I was backpedaling.”
“What?” Gleason asked with a tone of incredulity.
“Miss, I thought I was backpedaling that night,” Van Dyke said.
“You thought you were backpedaling as you’re firing shot after shot after shot?” Gleason asked.
“What I know now and what I thought at the time are two different things,” Van Dyke shot back.
Another Tribune piece reports that Van Dyke looked “relaxed” after his testimony, smiling and laughing with his family in the courtroom afterward. A source told the paper that the officer felt he had successfully shown “ a more human side instead of just a name in the headlines.”
As both sides make a last effort to make their case to the jury, Chicago has begun bracing for the verdict.
City officials are preparing for protests downtown and along Michigan Avenue once a verdict is returned, writes the Tribune. While social justice organizers are reportedly focusing on an economic shutdown of the city, the Chicago police department has “written a lengthy general order for officers—which it has not released,” the Tribune reports. Police shifts will extend to 12 hours, rather than 8 1/2, starting today.
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