After three weeks of testimony from nearly 50 witnesses, a Chicago jury took just a few hours to find former police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of 2nd degree murder and 16 aggravated assault charges in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, but before deliberations, jurors were instructed that they could find Van Dyke guilty on the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
After hearing two hours of closing arguments on Thursday, the jury, which had been sequestered for the entire length of the trial, began deliberating at approximately 1 p.m. Two hours into deliberations, they requested a transcript of the testimony given by Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, who, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, “gave a dramatic reenactment of the allegedly menacing move” that McDonald, who was holding a knife, made before Van Dyke shot him 16 times.
The shooting, which occurred nearly four years ago on October 20th, 2014, was captured by at least four police dashboard cameras, including from the car that Van Dyke and Walsh were riding in. However, that footage wasn’t released to the public until a judge issued a court order over a year later, after the city denied at least 15 public information act requests from the media. The video did not contain any audio, which city officials initially blamed on a “technical problem,” however it was later revealed that the audio equipment was “intentionally damaged.”
While McDonald’s death was ruled a “justifiable homicide” by the Chicago Police Department, the dash-cam footage from Van Dyke’s vehicle contradicted the department’s account that McDonald was “acting crazed” and “lunged” at officers after refusing to drop his knife. Instead, he was walking away from the officers when Van Dyke fired the first shot, causing McDonald to spin and fall to the ground. Van Dyke continued to shoot McDonald 15 more times in just 14 to 15 seconds, emptying his 9mm semi-automatic firearm. Van Dyke was the only officer out of at least nine others to discharge his weapon; nine of the 16 shots hit McDonald in the back.