The Laquan McDonald case appears to have taken a dramatic turn after reports that Chicago police may have lied about the incident on official reports, telling a story drastically different than what the video evidence shows.
McDonald was killed in October 2014 during an encounter with police. Officers said at the time that the 17-year-old lunged at them with a knife, but the video released last week shows that McDonald was walking away at the time he was shot.
Now hundreds of pages of Chicago police reports obtained by the Chicago Tribune show that police may have lied other times about the killing.
“At least one patrol officer said McDonald was advancing on the officers in a menacing way and swung his knife at them in an ‘aggressive, exaggerated manner’ before he was shot and killed. Officers claimed, too, that even after McDonald had been shot by Van Dyke, the teen tried to lift himself off the ground with the knife pointed toward the officers, and though he had been mortally wounded, still presented a threat.”
The report found that Officer Jason Van Dyke and a number of other police officers consistently claimed that Laquan McDonald presented a threat, even while he was lying bleeding on the ground after having been shot a number of times.
“VD believed O was attacking w/knife,” said a report of Van Dyke’s account, referring to Van Dyke as VD and McDonald as O, or the offender. “Trying to kill VD. In defense of his life, VD backpedaled + fired. O fell to ground, continued to move/grasp knife. VD continued firing. O appeared to be attempting to get up, still holding knife. Pointing at VD.”
Police accounts of Laquan McDonald’s death are nothing like what was caught on camera – https://t.co/Nw08LBv3od by Brittany Levine Beckman
— Jane Cake (@Jane_Cakeee) December 5, 2015
The Chicago Tribune report indicated that Van Dyke may have had an explanation for the killing of Laquan McDonald. The report noted that the department had been given a warning about modified knives that could shoot bullets, and the reports on McDonald’s death included information about what is known as the “21 foot rule,” which suggests that a suspect with a weapon within 21 feet of a police officer is able to close that ground easily. Those inside the 21-foot zone are not able to escape a charging suspect, making shooting the only option if a threat is imminent.
The police department ultimately ruled the death as justifiable homicide, but later charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder as the video of the incident was about to be released, more than a month later. The killing, and the apparent cover-up by police, has sparked unrest in Chicago as many took to the streets to protest police.
Here it is: my NBC5 10P report on the written police report on Laquan McDonald. We’ve asked for it for 7 months…. https://t.co/3vomvUEiyZ
— Carol Marin (@CarolMarin) December 5, 2015
The city of Chicago has responded as well, paying the McDonald family a $5 million settlement even before a wrongful death lawsuit was filed. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who himself is under fire for the city’s handling of the incident, also dismissed police Chief Garry McCarthy.
Information about the shooting has been released in bits, adding to the controversy. Many pieces of the police report have stood out, including much information that contradicts with video of Laquan McDonald’s killing.
“When McDonald got within 10 to 15 feet of Officer Van Dyke, McDonald looked toward Van Dyke,” the report states. “McDonald raised the knife across his chest and over shoulder, pointing the knife at Van Dyke.”
There could be other signs of a cover-up in the killing of Laquan McDonald. Two screenshots obtained by NBC Chicago and released this week show police officers sitting at a computer inside an adjacent Burger King, where reports indicate that footage of the events leading up to the shooting were erased.
[Photo by Getty Images Handout]