Jason Van Dyke, Who Shot 17-Year-Old Laquan McDonald 16 Times, Found Guilty Of Murder Charges

The charge of second-degree murder is effectively a first-degree murder charge "plus a mitigating factor," the judge of the case explained.

Jason Van Dyke appears in court.
Antonio Perez / Getty Images

The charge of second-degree murder is effectively a first-degree murder charge "plus a mitigating factor," the judge of the case explained.

It took 12 jurors just eight hours of deliberation to render a guilty verdict against Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago Police Department officer who had shot and killed a teenager in 2014.

Laquan McDonald, 17-years-old at the time of the shooting, was shot 16 times by Van Dyke on the night of October 20, 2014. His death went largely unnoticed in the media until a judge ordered dashcam footage of his death be released a year later, according to reporting from NPR.

Upon the video’s release, the public was soon outraged by what was shown. The video seemed to contradict the officer’s assertions that the teenager posed a violent threat to him. Although McDonald was carrying a knife, he never walked toward Van Dyke. Instead, the video appears to show McDonald attempting to walk away from the officer at a normal pace when Van Dyke started shooting at him.

The details of the video were backed up by testimonies from other officers during Van Dyke’s trial over the past few weeks. Officer Joseph McElligott told jurors during the trial that he had encountered McDonald before Van Dyke did, and that, unlike Van Dyke, he did not shoot McDonald because he didn’t view the teen as a deadly threat. Another cop, Officer Dora Fontaine, said that McDonald never moved in an aggressive way toward officers while he was walking that night.

Van Dyke and his attorneys maintained throughout the trial that the shooting was in the interest of his self-defense. But prosecutor Joseph McMahon disagreed.

“It’s Jason Van Dyke firing bullets, ripping into the flesh of Laquan McDonald 16 times. That’s not justified, that’s not necessary — that’s first-degree murder.”

Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder, which the presiding judge explained included charges of first-degree murder “plus a mitigating factor,” according to reporting from BuzzFeed News. Jurors also found Van Dyke guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery.

With his conviction, Van Dyke is the first police officer in three decades within the city of Chicago to be convicted of first-degree — or greater — charges for an on-duty killing. Three other officers within the department — detective David March, officer Joseph Walsh, and officer Thomas Gaffney — also face charges of conspiracy to cover up Van Dyke’s shooting. They will go to trial at the end of November.

The city and its police are prepared for protests to come about after the reading of the verdict, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. But he also anticipates that protests will be small, if any at all should come about. “[We] have done a lot of community outreach,” he said, and he’s hopeful that will help in the turbulent days ahead.