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Officer Charged With Murder in Chicago Teen’s Shooting Death

Dash-cam video of the shooting has been described as "graphic and violent" and "difficult to watch."

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Chicago Cop in Dash-Cam Video Charged With Murder in Teen's Fatal Shooting

    Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. NBC 5's Carol Marin reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015)

    Editor's Note: Police released the video following a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2015. Click here to view.

    The officer accused of fatally shooting a Chicago teen 16 times in October 2014 was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday, as the city braces for the moment video of the "disturbing" shooting is released to the public.

    Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday morning and was later ordered held without bail in connection with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's office. Van Dyke is scheduled to appear in court again Monday as Judge Donald Panarese said he wants to see video of the shooting. 

    The dash-cam video, which a judge ordered police to release by Nov. 25, is said to show the teen holding a small knife and walking away from officers when one unexpectedly opens fire, spraying the teen with more than a dozen bullets and continuing to shoot as McDonald lies lifeless on the ground, according to an attorney for the McDonald family. 

    Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that the shooting happened within 15 seconds, but for 13 of those seconds McDonald was on the ground. They added the video "clearly does not show McDonald advancing toward [Van Dyke]."

    "To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is simply disturbing and I have absolutely no doubt that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a press conference after bond court.

    It is reportedly the first time a Chicago officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty shooting in nearly 35 years. 

    Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday morning to be charged with first-degree murder for 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
    Photo credit: Cook County State's Attorney's Office

    Attorney Dan Herbert has argued the video alone is not enough to determine if Van Dyke "acted inappropriately" when he fatally shot McDonald, though he has described the footage as "graphic and violent" and "difficult to watch." He said outside the courtroom Tuesday that the case needs to be tried in a courtroom, "not in the streets or in the media."

    "[Van Dyke] is scared to death about possible outcomes here," Herbert said during a press conference Friday afternoon. "But he has been a professional and he has really been selfless. His concern is for his wife and his two young kids who are in grammar school."

    Police said the shooting was in self-defense and that McDonald lunged at the officer with a knife while authorities were investigating car break-ins in a trucking yard.

    An autopsy confirmed McDonald was shot a total of 16 times and had PCP in his system.

    "It’s not unlike any video that would depict something being shot to death," Herbert said, adding that the footage is "limited" and does not show what happened before the shooting.

    "The video by nature is two dimensional so the problem is it distorts distances, and distances and depth perception are important," he said. "The most critical problem is that the video does not depict what my client was seeing. It is not a video from the eyes of my client."

    The video has also been described as "disturbing" and so graphic that McDonald’s mother is concerned its release would prompt an uproar, according to an attorney representing the McDonald family. Attorney Mike Robbins said Thursday McDonald's mother "is not looking forward to the day this is released."

    "Once he hits the ground, Laquan is almost like in a fetal position and what you see from the dash-cam is his body making jerking movements around his head and area then graphic puffs of smoke coming out while he is being shot on the ground," Jeff Neslund, a second attorney for the McDonald family had earlier told NBC Chicago. 

    In a statement from McDonald's family, released Tuesday afternoon by Robbins and Neslund, the family called for peace.

    "We [the family of Laquan McDonald] deeply appreciate the outpouring of love and support for Laquan. This is a difficult time for us. As we have said in the past, while we would prefer that the video not be released we understand that a court has ordered otherwise. We ask for calm in Chicago. No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful. Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that."

    Herbert maintained that he’s confident Van Dyke's actions were "not only lawful, but also within department policy and within his training."

    The city has paid $5 million to the McDonald family, but there have since been calls for the officer’s firing. He was placed on desk duty following the shooting.

    "It’s my hope and my prayer that everybody who’s working on this case will see it the way the public sees it and that he’ll lose his job," said city Alderman Michelle Harris.