Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014.
Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm — one count for every shot that hit McDonald.
Prosecutors had asked for a first-degree murder verdict. But, as Judge Vincent Gaughan pointed out in his jury instructions, the jurors could reach a verdict of second-degree murder if they decided there were “mitigating circumstances.”
The convictions bring an end to one of the most racially charged incidents in city history. The circumstances surrounding the death of McDonald and the subsequent coverup attempt by city officials led to several violent demonstrations since a dash cam video of the confrontation between police and McDonald was released 13 months after the incident.
Originally declared a justified shooting by the police department, it took a court order for the dash cam video to see the light. What the video clearly showed was Officer Van Dyke — a 14-year veteran with a history of citizen complaints for excessive force — shooting McDonald several times in the back as he lay motionless on the ground. At that point, prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against Van Dyke while a grand jury has indicted three other officers for trying to cover up key evidence.
City officials expect trouble regardless of the verdict.
Updates to follow.
The city’s police union — the Fraternal Order of Police — was none too pleased with the verdict.
In a statement issued after the verdict was read Friday afternoon, the state FOP — based in Springfield — decried the verdict.
“This is a day I never thought I’d see in America, where 12 ordinary citizens were duped into saving the asses of self-serving politicians at the expense of a dedicated public servant,” the statement from State Lodge President Chris Southwood said.
“This sham trial and shameful verdict is a message to every law enforcement officer in America that it’s not the perpetrator in front of you that you need to worry about, it’s the political operatives stabbing you in the back. What cop would still want to be proactive fighting crime after this disgusting charade, and are law abiding citizens ready to pay the price?”
The head of the FOP in Chicago, Kevin Graham, was more cautious in his response to the verdict.
He told reporters outside the courtroom where the verdict was read that police officers he talked to didn’t agree with the verdict. He said he personally was upset the case had been used by critics to attack the entire police force.
“They have used this case to really kick around the Chicago Police Department, which has been unfortunate,” he said.
You be the jury.