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Van Dyke Trial Day 14: Surgeon says McDonald bled to death, had no vital signs

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. | Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune pool photo

1:35 p.m. The trial has ended for the day

1:33 p.m. Surgeon says McDonald bled to death, had no vital signs

The surgeon who operated on Laquan McDonald at Mount Sinai Hospital after McDonald’s fatal Oct. 20, 2014 shooting took the stand Wednesday afternoon.

Jeremy Stayton told jurors that, when McDonald arrived at the hospital that day, he had no vital signs. The defense team for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has insisted McDonald died at the scene of the shooting from one or two gunshot wounds.

“He had no blood pressure, no respiration, no pulse,” Stayton said. “By the time I was able to see the heart it was not moving.”

Stayton also said that, “if he had been shot with that injury right in front of us, the chances of him surviving are very low in any case.” He said those odds would have been about 1 percent.

The surgeon later hesitated when asked if McDonald died from a gunshot wound that damaged his pulmonary artery.

“If he didn’t have that pulmonary artery injury, I don’t know whether he would have survived or not,” Stayton said. “If he had just that injury, he would have died, 99 percent chance.”

When Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Cullen asked on cross examination if McDonald “might have survived” that injury, Stayton said, “not likely.” However, Stayton said that death wouldn’t have been immediate. He said McDonald bled to death.

“It takes a while to bleed to death,” Stayton said.

1:21 p.m. Police instructor says she emphasizes the words ‘reasonable’ and ‘necessary’

During cross-examination, Chicago police attorney Yolanda Sayre was asked about the words “reasonable” and “necessary” in Illinois’ use of force law.

Assistant Special Prosecutor Dan Weiler also asked Sayre about worksheets she gives to officers learning about that law. He noted the words “reasonable” and “necessary” appear 15 times in the worksheets. The words appear in bold and are underlined.

“It is made very clear to them that it needs to be reasonable and necessary,” Weiler said of the use of force. Sayre agreed.

Sayre also acknowledged that she teaches recruits that the burden is ultimately on the officer to explain the use of force.

1:07 p.m. Defense witness explains Illinois’ use of force law

After a lunch break, defense lawyers for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke called to the stand Yolanda Sayre, an attorney for the Chicago Police Department who trains officers in the police academy.

Sayre said she’s helped teach recruits for roughly two decades, including when Van Dyke went through the police academy.

While being questioned by defense attorney Dan Herbert, Sayre told jurors about a worksheet officers are asked to fill out to help them understand Illinois’ law on the use of force by police officers.

That law says an officer “is justified in using force likely to cause death or great bodily harm only when he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or such other person” or when “such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape” and “the person to be arrested has committed or attempted a forcible felony which involves the infliction or threatened infliction of great bodily harm or is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon, or otherwise indicates that he will endanger human life or inflict great bodily harm unless arrested without delay.”

Sayre said recruits are taught to consider knives as deadly weapons, along with guns and baseball bats.

12:56 p.m. McDonald’s family blasts defense for painting him as ‘the perpetrator’

The great uncle of Laquan McDonald criticized the defense on Wednesday for bringing up alleged violent acts in his past during the murder trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

“It is an unjust ploy to paint Laquan McDonald as the perpetrator,” the Rev. Marvin Hunter said at a news conference during the break in the trial.

“Laquan McDonald is a victim, he is the victim in this matter, he is not on trial and if we’re going to look at the background of anyone in this particular proceeding, it should certainly be the background of Mr. Van Dyke.”

Rev. Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald’s great uncle, speaks to reporters Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse during the Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke murder trial. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Rev. Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald’s great uncle, speaks to reporters Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse during the Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke murder trial. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Hunter referred to testimony Wednesday morning by truck driver Rudy Barillas who said he came across a young black man as he tried to break into a truck, called police and fended him off. Barillas never definitively identified the man as McDonald. That police call led to the eventual confrontation between McDonald and Van Dyke.

“The truck driver stated that he was able to fend off Laquan — even if that happened — the fact is that he said he was able to fend off Laquan with a cell phone and some gravel, he did not need 16 shots to get Laquan to go away,” Hunter said.

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Faith leaders look on as Rev. Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald's great-uncle, speaks to reporters in the l

12:00 p.m. More threats from Laquan McDonald

A woman who worked at the Cook County juvenile detention center in April 2014 described another incident with Laquan McDonald.

Jakki Alexander told jurors she was called to a pod in the facility that month because McDonald was refusing to enter his cell.

When she got there, she said she heard McDonald make various comments. She said he threatened to beat up members of the rapid response team and that he’d “put a slug in the judge’s head.”

11:48 a.m. Jurors hear about ‘revolver knife’

A Chicago police sergeant who once worked with Officer Jason Van Dyke took the stand for the defense Wednesday to describe an officer safety alert about a “revolver knife.”

Sgt. William Schield said the alert went out in December 2012 when Schield was working in a targeted response unit with Van Dyke. He said it described “a knife that contains a 22-caliber revolver in the handle.” He said it would likely hold between five and six rounds.

Schield said such alerts are read at roll call and posted on bulletin boards. However, during cross examination, he admitted he had never found such a weapon on the street — nor has he ever heard of any other officer finding one.

11:33 a.m. Truck driver says man in truck lot tried to stab him

Truck driver Rudy Barrillas described on the witness stand Wednesday his encounter with a man alleged to be Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014. He said that man tried to stab him.

Barrillas said he crossed paths with that person when Barrillas parked his truck in a lot at 41st and Kildare that night. He said he saw someone in a truck and asked that person to leave. He said that person got out of the truck.

“He pulled out a knife and wanted to hurt me,” Barrillas said through a Spanish interpreter.

Barrillas went on: “He came toward me and he tried to stab me.”

At one point during his testimony, Barrillas stood up and mimicked the gestures that man allegedly made with the knife that night.

Barrillas said he threw his phone at the person alleged to be McDonald, but that person “came back at me.” So Barrillas said he “got a little bit of dirt, gravel and threw it at his face.” Meanwhile, Barrillas said his wife was getting out of his truck to try to help him.

Barrillas said the man who was advancing on him “couldn’t talk. He was tongue tied.”

Finally, when the person alleged to be McDonald realized Barrillas was calling police, the individual fled.

During cross examination, Barrillas admitted to a prosecutor he was able to fend the person off with a cell phone and a handful of dirt.

11:14 a.m. Truck driver who called police takes stand to give key testimony for defense

The truck driver who summoned police to 41st and Kildare on Oct. 20, 2014 — initiating the fatal encounter with Laquan McDonald — took the stand Wednesday morning to describe his memory of the night.

Judge Vincent Gaughan has made clear the testimony of Rudy Barrillas is crucial to keeping an animated re-creation of McDonald’s shooting in evidence. It was shown to the jury Tuesday.

Barillas could also be key to an argument by Officer Jason Van Dyke’s defense team that Van Dyke was justified in fatally shooting McDonald under Illinois’ use of deadly force law.

Barillas answered questions from defense attorney Randy Rueckert through a Spanish interpreter. He said he pulled his truck into a lot at 41st and Kildare on Oct. 20, 2014. His wife was with him. In the lot, he said he saw another person inside a truck.

“I got out of my truck and I asked that person to please leave,” Barrillas said through the interpreter.

Barrillas said the person was black, about 5 feet, 6inches tall, and dressed in a black sweater and blue jeans. McDonald, in fact, was over 6 feet tall.

“I told him I was going to call the police if he didn’t leave,” Barrillas said. He acknowledged that he eventually placed the call.

10:39 a.m. Officer admits she went to help confront McDonald ‘begrudgingly’

Officer Leticia Velez admitted on cross examination Wednesday morning she went to 41st and Pulaski “begrudgingly” on Oct. 20, 2014.

During cross-examination by Assistant Special Prosecutor Jody Gleason, Velez acknowledged she would have preferred to “have my dinner,” but she agreed to go after a discussion with her partner. She said the call for help from other officers “sounded very serious.” And dispatchers had called for an officer with a Taser. Neither Velez nor her partner had one.

“I didn’t have a tool to provide,” Velez testified. “I did not have a Taser and neither did my partner.”

The exchange between Gleason and Velez quickly turned contentious. Velez insisted that, during the incident, she thought Laquan McDonald was carrying a gun.

“We found out later he did not have a gun, but I did believe he had one,” Velez said.

Velez also pushed back when Gleason asked whether Velez pulled out her gun that night. Gleason noted Velez’s memory had suddenly turned “fuzzy.”

“About me taking out my gun? About me maybe wiping my nose? Yes,” Velez replied.

She added: “It’s muscle memory. If there’s somebody with a gun you’re going to take out your gun.”

Later, Gleason noted that Velez previously said Officer Jason Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, searched McDonald immediately after kicking a knife away from McDonald after the shooting. The prosecutor asked whether Velez had ever seen that search depicted on video.

“If I said that he searched him, then he searched him,” Velez said.

10:09 a.m. Testifying for defense, officer says McDonald looked ‘deranged’

A Chicago police officer took the stand for the defense Wednesday morning and told jurors Laquan McDonald looked “deranged” the night he was killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Officer Leticia Velez said she and her partner responded to radio calls indicating officers needed help near 41st and Pulaski on Oct. 20, 2014. She said they were traveling north on Pulaski in their police vehicle as McDonald was walking south. She said McDonald “actually got very close.”

“He did not look at us,” Velez said. “He did not look toward our direction. He just kept looking straight ahead.”

Velez told jurors that “he looked deranged.”

“We had lights, we had sirens, he was not looking in our direction,” Velez said. “There was nothing that was actually fazing him.”

Velez also said the fact that McDonald was holding his hands at his sides was a sign he may have had a weapon.

10:05 a.m. Prominent Chicago-area clergy members pray in front of courthouse

Seven clergy members and faith leaders from the Chicago area gathered outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Tuesday morning to pray for “justice for Laquan McDonald.”

“We came to make the statement that Laquan McDonald’s life matters,” said the Rev. Marshall Hatch, of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. “All our lives matter . . . We need justice for Laquan McDonald and we are all on trial.”

Shortly before the Jason Van Dyke trial started Tuesday, Hatch joined in the prayer with Rev. Ira Acree, of Greater St. John Bible Church; Rev. Jeanette Wilson, of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; Rev. Tim Hoekstra, of Suburban Life Community Church in Darien; Rev. Robert Biekman, of Maple Park United Methodist Church; Rabbi Max Weiss, of Oak Park Temple, and Pastor Eric Pernell, of New True Vine Baptist Church.

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Rev. Robert Biekman, of Maple Park United Methodist Church, joined seven other faith leaders to pray for

“As we’re here on the steps of the courthouse, we’re praying that justice will meet us there,” Acree said in prayer. “We know that Chicago is watching, the state is watching, America is watching and the world is watching as justice is on trial.

“Oh, God, right now we pray that you will come against — with your strong power — against the systemic racism that exists in America and locally. We come against any attack against justice being manifested for today and throughout the remainder of this trial,” Acree said. “We pray for the McDonald family we pray that you insulate them, we pray that you protect the jurors, dear God, that they wont be intimated and that they will do the right thing.”

Acree also asked that “things will work out and we will live in a society where black lives will matter.”

From left to right, Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Jeanette Wilson, Rev. Tim Hoekstra, Rev. Robert Biekman, Rabbi Max Weiss, Pastor Eric Pernell and Rev. Marshall Hatch pray for “justice for Laquan McDonald” outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse before the murde
From left to right, Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Jeanette Wilson, Rev. Tim Hoekstra, Rev. Robert Biekman, Rabbi Max Weiss, Pastor Eric Pernell and Rev. Marshall Hatch pray for “justice for Laquan McDonald” outside the Leighton Criminal Courthouse before the murder trial Wednesday of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

9:09 a.m. Key defense witness late to court — judge threatens to strike animation

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan complained Wednesday morning that a key defense witness — a truck driver who called 911 the night Laquan McDonald was shot — had not shown up to court on time.

Defense attorney Dan Herbert said someone had gone to pick up Rudy Barillas “early.”

“Show me where early is on my watch,” Gaughan said.

The judge made it clear he would strike an animated re-creation of McDonald’s shooting from the trial if Barillas doesn’t testify. Barillas is also key to defense arguments that Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was justified in fatally shooting McDonald under Illinois’ law on the use of deadly force by police.


In the coming days, the defense for Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is expected to call a ballistics expert as well as an authority on how massive stress can change an individual’s perceptions.

On Tuesday, which would have been Laquan McDonald’s 21st birthday, the defense called a video expert to discuss an animated re-creation he oversaw that showed for the first time the shooting from Van Dyke’s perspective, rather than the police dashcam video.

The video clearly showed McDonald decreasing the distance between him and Van Dyke.

But McDonald also appeared to be veering away from Van Dyke, not heading right at him. What’s more, McDonald does not raise his arms in the video.

Prosecutors tried to poke holes in the re-creation, noting some discrepancies between the video and what actually was at the scene.

Jason Fries testifies during the trial about an animated video portraying Officer Jason Van Dyke and Laquan McDonald.

At least one legal expert told the Sun-Times that the video didn’t help the prosecution’s case. But the head of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, at a news conference after the trial ended for the day, praised the defense and the video, arguing it clearly showed the shooting was justified.

Video by Ashlee Rezin | Chris Southwood, president of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, speaks to reporters at the Leighto

Here’s a video recap of the testimony on Tuesday from Sun-Times reporters Andy Grimm and Jon Seidel:

Video by Ashlee Rezin

Also a small number of protesters showed up outside the Leighton Criminal Court Building Tuesday night to mark his birthday. Here’s video from the scene:

Video by Maria de la Guardia

Several prominent ministers are expected to hold a news conference at 9 a.m. Wednesday outside the courthouse before trial starts. Among the reverends who say they are praying for justice are Marshall Hatch, Ira Acree and Janette Wilson from Rainbow PUSH.