Constable Jason Van Dyke at his trial for the murder of Laquan McDonald on October 2, 2018. – Antonio Perez / AP / SIPA
The images shocked America. Jason Van Dyke, the white policeman who shot Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black teenager with 16 shots in October 2014, was convicted of second-degree murder on Friday. This is the equivalent of a deliberate homicide with extenuating circumstances. He will be serving his prison term at a future hearing.
Jason Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 aggravated firearm violence charges for each of the 16 shots. Each conviction is punishable by at least six years in prison. He could spend the rest of his life (96 years) behind bars.
The police officer was appearing for first degree murder. He was accused of shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at a distance in October 2014 while he was walking in the middle of the road with a knife in his hand. The jury finally chose the second degree murder, conceding that he had mistakenly believed he was in danger.
The police had said that the teenager was heading towards them. But a video recording of the scene shows that Laquan McDonald, who was walking erratically in the middle of the roadway, was trying to get away from the officers. Jason Van Dyke fired 16 times when he was about three meters away, continuing to empty the loader while the young man was on the ground.
The city of Chicago feared possible eruptions of violence at the announcement of the verdict. "If they acquit the killer cop, the city has to stop," said a small group of protesters outside the courthouse.