Lest We Forget

Laquan McDonald1997-2014

In the evening of October 20th, 2014 the Chicago police department received a call about a person breaking into cars. The first officers who appeared at the scene reported that the suspect was holding a knife in his hand, stabbing car tires. They were asking for a taser to be sent for support.

Laquan McDonald was 17 years old when he was murdered that evening. He was described by teachers as "very respectful and reserved". He was working in the after-school Youth Advocate Program.

The execution of Laquan McDonald

Ten officers were at the scene. Video footage of the dashcam of one of the police cars shows Laquan with a small knife in his hands, but walking away from the officers. Nevertheless, exactly 6 seconds after arriving at the scene officer Jason Van Dyke unloads the entire round of ammunition of his gun into the Black teenager who had been walking away from him. In the video Laquan's body is seen twisting as Van Dyke keeps shooting 16 times.

The narrative of the Chicago police department was that Van Dyke had acted appropriately to a dangerous offender. The official report claimed that the teenager had "lunged at Van Dyke" with his knife and that Van Dyke acted lawfully in self-defense. This narrative was quickly adopted by news outlets until reports from eye-witnesses and the release of the video footage showed an entirely different picture. Federal investigations into potential police cover-up followed.

Prior to the murder of Laquan McDonald Chicago citizens had filed 20 complaints about Van Dyke for aggressiveness and using unnecessary excessive force. Van Dyke was never disciplined.

One of the eye-witnesses of the murder of Laquan McDonald described the shooting as "an execution". Van Dyke, however, was found guilty only for second-degree murder and was sentenced to 6.75 years.