Sneed exclusive: Officer who shot Laquan McDonald to be charged Tuesday

SHARE Sneed exclusive: Officer who shot Laquan McDonald to be charged Tuesday
SHARE Sneed exclusive: Officer who shot Laquan McDonald to be charged Tuesday

Sneed has learned a criminal probe launched by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez into the bullet riddled, shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is expected to result in criminal charges Tuesday against 37- year old Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.

Sneed hears rumbles murder charges were on the table.

The shocker: If a murder charge is placed against Officer Van Dyke, it will be the first time in Chicago history an “on duty” police officer was charged with such a crime.

Any decision to file charges Tuesday against Officer Van Dyke comes in the wake of a Cook County judge’s ruling last week ordering the release of an incendiary video showing a white police officer shooting McDonald, an African-American teen, whose body was riddled with 16 bullets.

On Saturday, Rev. Jesse Jackson told the press he was hoping for a “police shakeup from top to bottom” after the release of the dashboard cam video; expressed anger Officer Van Dyke was still getting paid “while McDonald is perishing in his grave;” and called for Alvarez to step down for “failing” to charge him.

Altho Alvarez would make no comment, Sneed hears she huddled with staff over the weekend preparing to weigh in on the Laquan McDonald case in advance of the release of the controversial video showing Officer Van Dyke, who is white, shooting the African American teen — who was killed on Oct. 20, 2014.

Sneed has also learned the potentially inflammatory video, which was ordered released before Nov. 25 in a ruling last by Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama, is scheduled to be released at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

In addition to Alvarez, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy had come under intense criticism for permitting Officer Van Dyke, who had been stripped of police authority, to continue to be assigned to paid desk duty … and for keeping the video from the public eye until the “appropriate” time pending a result of a three pronged investigation.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is back at work after a whirlwind business trip to China, reversed course after Judge Franklin Valderrama’s stunning decision Friday and said he would not seek to have the ruling overturned.

Release of the video also prompted Alvarez to move quickly before the video was released hoping to quell any violent reaction by the public to a growing national furor over reports of unfair, premeditated treatment of black teens by white police officers.

Sneed also hears Alvarez’s operatives have also been reaching out to ministers, community leaders and other members of the faith-based community asking them to spread a message encouraging peaceful protests when the video is released by the city of Chicago on Wednesday.

The charges brought by Alvarez pre-empt the result of a probe also being conducted by the Chicago branch of the FBI; a joint investigation involving Alvarez and the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates police misconduct.

Ironically, before a wrongful death lawsuit was even filed by McDonald’s family — the Chicago City Council unanimously voted to approve a $5 million settlement with them.

Backstory: On Oct. 20, 2014, the incident resulting in McDonald’s death began when a report to 911 claimed a knife wielding man, McDonald, who was acting erratically — had threatened the complainant — and was attempting to break into vehicles in an Archer Heights trucking yard.

Two police officers, responding to the incident, ordered McDonald to drop the 4-inch folding knife, which he subsequently used to puncture a tire on one of the squad cars. McDonald, a ward of the state whose mother was in the process of seeking custody of him, reportedly ignored the warning.

While jogging away from the officers — and still wielding a knife, McDonald’s erratic behavior resulted in other police officers arriving at the scene — as well as a request for a taser.

Subsequently, a squad car equipped with a dashboard camera also arrived. The video purportedly shows Van Dyke’s marked SUV police vehicle pulling in front of the teen, who then veered into traffic.

At some point Van Dyke exited his car with his gun drawn and opened fire on McDonald, and pumped 16 bullets into his body. An autopsy report purportedly showed McDonald had PCP in his system when killed. Several other officers on the scene did not open fire.

A troubled teen, McDonald had no adult criminal record, but he had reportedly been arrested on juvenile complaints.

Attorney Daniel Q. Herbert who is representing officer Van Dyke, has insisted his clients actions were justified and within the police department guidelines. He could not be reached immediately for comment Monday.

According to Independent Police Review Authority records, since 2006 Van Dyke has received a total of 17 citizen complaints, including three complaints within a four-year span involving excessive force-related allegations. He was also accused for making racial remarks.

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