CHICAGO — The white Chicago police officer who fired 16 shots into Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, is guilty of second-degree murder, a jury said Friday.
The defendant, Jason Van Dyke, became the first Chicago police officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting in nearly 50 years. His case has been followed closely in this city since dashboard-camera video of the shooting was released in 2015.
Jurors also convicted Officer Van Dyke on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for every shot he fired at Laquan. Officer Van Dyke, who was escorted out of the packed courtroom with his hands folded behind his back, could face decades in prison when sentenced.
Outside the courthouse, a group of activists — who had planned protests if the officer was acquitted — cheered and chanted: “Justice for Laquan! Justice for Laquan!”
The video of Laquan’s death led to upheaval in local government and the Police Department and became a symbol for decades of mistrust between Chicago officers and black residents. The video showed Laquan, who was carrying a knife, veering away from the police when Officer Van Dyke jumped out of his squad car and started shooting. The shots continued after Laquan, who was 17, collapsed onto the street.
As the case played out at a heavily guarded county courthouse over the last three weeks, some said the verdict would be a referendum on whether a Chicago police officer could ever be held accountable for taking a life. Activists promised massive demonstrations if Officer Van Dyke was acquitted, and city officials extended police officers’ shifts and made plans for protests.
After the verdict was announced, a group of several hundred demonstrators marched along downtown streets as the police blocked traffic to allow them to pass. Officers accompanied the demonstrators on foot and on bicycles.