There was little notice given when a white Chicago cop fatally shot a black 17-year-old in the middle of the street in October 2014. There were no newspaper obituaries, no press conferences, and no large protests. Laquan McDonald, who was carrying a knife, was the 14th person the city’s police had shot dead that year.
But McDonald’s death shocked the world 13 months later when a judge ordered the city to release a police dash-cam video of the shooting. The recording shows Officer Jason Van Dyke exit a police SUV and — within seconds — fire 16 shots at McDonald. Police reported McDonald had been swinging a knife at officers, but the video shows the teen walking away. The recording revealed both the murder and the police cover-up.
Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm [one for each shot] on the day the video was released. He was arrested and initially held without bail at the Cook County Jail. He was released on bail on November 30. The city reached a settlement with McDonald's family. On October 5, 2018, Van Dyke was found guilty of second degree murder, as well as 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE TRIAL
In total, there were nine days of witness testimony. Jury selection began on Sept. 10 and the trial began on Sept. 17. Closing arguments and jury deliberations were slated to begin on Oct. 4.
The prosecution called 24 witnesses over four days of testimony. Twenty defense witnesses testified over five days.
Jason Van Dyke was witness no. 19 for the defense, taking the stand for a total of 90 minutes.
There are 19 total counts against Van Dyke - two counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery and one count of official misconduct.
In closing arguments, prosecutors revealed that jurors can deliberate a lesser charge of second-degree murder as well.
The charges break down as follows:
#1 Murder/Intent to Kill/Injure with Firearm (45 years to Life)
#2 Murder/Strong Probabilty Kill/Injure Firearm (45 years to life)
Murder counts three, four, five and six were dropped before trial began. Second-degree murder holds a penalty of between four and 20 years in prison, though a four-year probation term is possible instead of prison.
#7-22 Aggravated Battery/Discharge Firearm (6 to 30 years- must serve 85 percent)
#23 Official Misconduct/Forbidden Act (2 to 5 years)
Jury selection took two and a half days. In all, 54 potential jurors were questioned.
Prosecution Day 1
1. Carnissa Hunter- Laquan McDonald’s Great Aunt
2. Tabitha Thiry – CPD Dispatcher on duty 10/20/14
3. Det Jeffrey Malik - Collected the surveillance videos from near the scene
4. Officer Joseph McElligott – CPD
He was one of the officers on the scene that night. He was the first to encounter McDonald after the 911 call was made. He followed him down the sidewalk with his weapon drawn, but he didn’t shoot. It was his squad car tire that McDonald stabbed.
“[McDonald held [the knife] out, but he didn’t say anything verbally," McElligott testified. The prosecutor responded saying the question was "did he threaten you?" McElligott answered "No."
When asked why he didn't shoot, McElligott said he was "trying to buy time to get a Taser."
5. Lance Becvar – Retired CPD Officer
Testified that he retrieved five dash cam videos- none had audio
6. Nick Banjwari- Dunkin Doughnuts Manager
7. Paul Rettig – FBI Forensic Manager
8. Officer Dora Fontaine- CPD
She was one of the officers on the scene that night. She did not draw her weapon.
She testified when her car pulled up Laquan McDonald was walking southbound "swaying a knife back and forth." She also testified she heard verbal commands for him to drop the knife. When asked under cross examination if she saw any of the shooting from her car she said, "I don't remember."
Prosecution Day 2
9. Officer Joe Walsh- Van Dyke’s Partner that night
Walsh has an immunity deal and still faces trial for his own charges stemming from the shooting. He's accused of filing a false report and exaggerating the threat Laquan McDonald posed.
"[McDonald] was on that diagonal.. swinging the knife- flailing as I called it. He turns and looks directly in our direction with a stare and a focus beyond us. That’s when I believed the first shot occurred."
Walsh testified he believed McDonald was a danger saying he "assessed the entire incident when [McDonald] was on the ground."
"He was a threat, still armed with a knife in his hand, still moving," Walsh said.
10. Xavier Torres – Witness
He was in a car on Pulaski when Van Dyke started shooting.
Testified he did not see Laquan making any threatening movements towards officers on the scene.
"Look like [McDonald was] trying to get away from the officers," he said.
11. Officer David Ivankovich- CPD
He had a taser and was responding the to calls for a taser. McDonald was already shot by the time he arrived on the scene.
12. Adam Murphy – Cook County Police Dept.
He walked over to McDonald as he lie on the ground, heard his last grasp of air, but did not perform CPR.
13. Officer Kamal Juden- CPD Evidence Tech
14. Det. Roberto Garcia – CPD
Testified about the weapon- S&W 9 MM Semi Automatic
15.Officer Victor Riviera- Retired CPD
16. Mark Messick – FBI Forensic Expert
Testified about the dashcam video. His testimony was struck that day because he could not talk about the puffs of smoke seen on the video since he’s not a ballistics expert. He was allowed to testify the next day, but not mention the bullets.
Prosecution Day 3
18. Alan Gayan- RN at Mount Sinai working the night McDonald was brought in
19. Mark Smith – Paramedic with CFD
20. Greg Brate-ISP Forensic Firearms Scientist
Testified that all 16 shots fired the night McDonald was killed, came from the same weapon.
"Based on comparison of evidence...I determined all fired from the same weapon."
21. Dr. Ponni Arunkumar-Pathologist
She did not conduct McDonald autopsy, but she did testify about the medical examiner's report. She went into great detail about all 16 bullet wounds. There were 24 holes in total because eight gunshots had exit wounds, she said. She testified that during at least two shots, entrance wounds on the upper and lower back, McDonald was "most likely" not on the ground at the time.
The autopsy report said the fourth gunshot wound, which struck McDonald in the front right chest, piercing the lung, was the one that killed him. Under cross examination, Dr. Arunkumar says it was "highly unlikely" that McDonald was on the ground at the time, meaning he was facing Van Dyke when hit.
Prosecution Day 4
22. Scott Patterson- FBI Special Agent
Testified that McDonald hit the ground 1.6 seconds after the first shot was fired. The final shot was fired 12.6 seconds later. In total, all 16 shots were fired in 14.2 seconds.
The proseuction also played FBI shooting video that showed 16 shots being fired in 14.2 seconds, which Patterson called "deliberate and methodical."
Jurors at Jason Van Dyke's trial watched a video Thursday showing an FBI agent shooting 16 shots in 4 seconds. In another video, the agent fired 16 shots in 14.2 seconds -- the same amount of time Van Dyke fired all 16 shots at Laquan McDonald. The FBI expert called those shots “deliberate and methodical.”
(Published Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018)
23. Urey Patrick- Use of Force Expert
He testified that the risk posed by Mcdonald "did not rise to necessity to use deadly force to stop it."
While watching the dashcam video, Patrick repeatedly notes that McDonald was moving away from police. "He is an imminent threat by virtue of his non-compliance and knife, but he does not pose an imminent risk." He says use of deadly force was "not justified under these circumstances."
“When Mr. McDonald went down, clear threat ended," he testified. "When he went down, the shooting should have ended within a second or two. Ten seconds later? Unreasonable."
Under cross examination, Urey Patrick is asked if a person on the ground, holding a knife, can be a threat to a police officer. He answered “conceivably, yes." He agreed that even at 21 feet away, someone with a knife on PCP, can still be a threat. "It can happen," he said.
24. Jose Torres- Witness
He was driving on Pulaski and witnessed shooting.
Defense Day 1
1. Dr. Shaku Teas- Pathologist
Testified about the gunshot wounds.
2. Joseph Plaud- Cook County Sheriff
Testified that McDonald was swearing and screaming at officers while in juvenile court.
3. Tyler Sage- Westmont Police Officer
Testified that McDonald was aggressive and needed to be cuffed.
4. Miguel DeJesus- Cook County Youth Detention Center
Testified how they put McDonald in a room because he was very hostile.
Defense Day 2
5. Dina Randazzo- Cook County Juvenile Probation Officer
Said McDonald was combative with sheriffs.
6. Jason Fries – CEO 3D Forensic
Re-created the dashcam video using animation to show Van Dyke’s point of view that night.
Defense Recreates McDonald Shooting From Van Dyke's View
Jason Van Dyke's defense attorneys show jurors a recreation of the shooting of Laquan McDonald from the Chicago police officer's perspective, based on laser analysis of the scene.
Defense Day 3
7. Officer Leteshia Velez- CPD
An officer on the scene the night. Velez said McDonald was about 3 feet from her vehicle. She did have her gun out, and thought she might have to use it.
8. Rudy Barillas- Truck Driver
He called 911 after found McDonald in a truck yard that night. Testified that McDonald pulled out a knife on him so he threw his cell phone and gravel at him.
9. Sgt. William Schield-CPD
10. Jackie Alexander- Illinois Youth Center
11. Yolanda Sayre- Police Department Attorney
12. Dr. Jeremy Stayton – Worked at Mount Siani
Defense Day 4
14. Evette Patterson- Neighbor
Called 911 on McDonald at 2 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2014 because he was hanging outside her home and she was afraid to get out of her car and go into her home. But on the stand, she said she wasn’t scared.
15. James O’Donnell – Pharmacologist
Testified about effects of PCP, including aggressive and hostile behavior.
"[McDonald was] whacked on PCP at the time of his death," O'Donnell said.
16. Nicholas Pappas – Firearms Instructor for CPD
Testified that recruits are trained to immediately reload their weapons and shoot until the threat is eliminated.
Under cross examination, Pappas is questioned about his general orders and how he wrote that deadly force should be used only after all other means of disposal have been exhausted.
Defense Day 5
17. Dr. Lawrence Miller- Psychologist
Testified that Van Dyke was responding to what he perceived was a deadly threat. However, under cross examination, he testified that while Van Dyke and Walsh were still to the way to the scene that night, Van Dyke told his partner, "Oh my god, we’re going to have to shoot the guy."
18. Det. William Johnson
19. Jason Van Dyke
Testified for 1 hour and 10 minutes total. See his full testimony here.
Lawyer: How Van Dyke's Testimony Could Impact His Trial
Attorney Dena Singer analyzes the testimony from Jason Van Dyke after he took the stand during his murder trial Tuesday.
20. Barry Brodd- Expert in Use of Force
Testified that he thought deadly use of force was justified, then offered re-enactment showing how easily someone within 12-14 feet could attack in just seconds.