A black teen running down the road was shot sixteen times by a Chicago police officer. He had PCP in his system and a small knife on his person. At no point did he seem to make any threatening moves toward any of the multiple police officers who were on the scene that night. Here we are, months later, and we are seeing the video for the first time.
Once again, we are having a discussion about a police officer shooting a black person to death in the street. The LaQuan McDonald case has been one with its own share of controversy – like the alleged deleting of 86 minutes worth of video from a surveillance camera in the area – but there are very familiar patterns here: A teen was on the street, committing a minor crime, and was killed by a police officer. That police officer was today charged with first degree murder.
The release capped a day that started with extremely rare murder charges being filed against Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was ordered held without bail at a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she had decided weeks ago to charge Van Dyke weeks ago but was holding off until federal authorities completed their part of the joint investigation. She said she “moved up” her decision to charge Van Dyke after a Cook County judge ruled last week that the video should be released to the public.
“I felt compelled in the interest of public safety to announce these state charges today,” she said at a news conference after Van Dyke had been ordered held without bail at least until Monday in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
This is not a partisan issue and it would be highly disrespectful to McDonald’s family (who are urging calm, saying that Laquan’s legacy should not be one of violence) to make it such. This issue is about the abuse of the powers of the state, which does not feel beholden to the laws it is supposed to uphold. It is about justice, which is so often not found for victims of the state.
Law enforcement has an incredibly tough job, and it is obvious that the vast majority of them are not racists out there indiscriminately killing black men. But it is nearly impossible to look at the instances of brutality towards black men and not see an almost institutional problem. In an isolated area of the country, it would be one thing. All around the country, however? There is a problem and it has to be addressed.
This is the result of a government that is too large and creates too many laws, and it is the result of a society that is increasingly polarized in terms of race and party. It is not limited to one side of the aisle or another. It is an across the board issue that should be addressed by both sides in a calm and peaceful manner.
Pray for the McDonald’s, who now have to suffer through the death of their son being shown on national television. Pray for Chicago, which will be seeing more pain as people take to the streets. The protests have already begun, and one hopes that Chicago will not see the aftermath that Ferguson saw.
Image courtesy Associated Press.