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Graphic photos of Laquan McDonald’s autopsy gives real look at gun violence

Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar describes details of a diagram of bullet entry and exit wounds found on the body of Laquan McDonald, as it is shown to the jury during the trial for the shooting death of McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, in Chicago. | John J. Kim/Pool/Chicago Tribune

I wish every young black male thinking about picking up a gun had been in the courtroom Wednesday, where the Jason Van Dyke trial is going on.

They may think they know what death looks like because they’ve seen someone lying in a pool of blood in the street.

They may have even gone to a funeral where the deceased was dressed in his finest gear.

But to see the destruction caused when a bullet tears through the human body brings home the fact that guns are for killing.

Every bullet that tore through the body of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was accounted for during grueling testimony Wednesday by Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, Cook County’s chief medical examiner.

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is on trial at the George Leighton Courthouse at 26th and California, charged with killing the teenager in 2014. Van Dyke is accused of shooting the teen 16 times.

Arunkumar spent about 4-1/2 hours on the stand describing every bullet wound — starting with Bullet No. 1, which grazed the teen’s head and caused “bleeding over the brain,” to Bullet No. 16 that penetrated the teen’s inner and back of his right thigh.

Jurors were shown large photographs of the teen’s body as the forensic pathologist went over every single bullet hole.

Cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar testifies during the trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, in Chicago. | John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

They saw X-rays that showed where the bullets fired by Van Dyke landed. They saw where those bullets went in and where they came out.

I was glad that McDonald’s mother was not in the courtroom because they showed a horrifying photograph of her son’s face — his teeth shattered by bullet fragments.

The forensic pathologist described the path of the bullets in painstaking detail.

She explained the “hemorrhaging” that occurred from the gunshot wound to McDonald’s neck when Bullet No. 2 struck the right side of the teen’s neck, injuring his trachea and surrounding muscle.

The total number of bullet holes McDonald actually suffered was 24, according to Arunkumar.

“There were one graze wound, seven penetrating wounds, eight perforated wounds and eight exit wounds,” she said.

Despite attempts by the defense to argue on cross-examination that any one of the shots could have resulted in McDonald’s death, Arunkumar stuck to her testimony.

“McDonald’s death was caused by multiple wounds, and the manner of death was homicide,” the medical examiner testified.

During recess, I ran into McDonald’s great-uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, who joined the Rev. Jesse Jackson for a press conference.

“The prosecution did an excellent presentation of death by a thousand cuts,” Hunter said.

Arunkumar said the Cook County medical examiner’s office performed autopsies in about 805 gunshot cases in 2016 and 740 gunshot cases in 2017, more than New York and Los Angeles.

Seeing the photos of McDonald’s wounds made me think about all the guns on the street and the damage these guns are doing.

Whether that gun is in the hand of a police officer or in the hand of a shooter firing randomly on the street, the destruction is the same.

Whether the victim of gun violence is an elderly person caught in the crossfire or a young black man caught in a confrontation with police, the damage is the same.

Every young man arrested for possessing an illegal gun should be required to sit through an autopsy.

It was difficult for the defense to refute the overwhelming testimony that was presented on Wednesday, though they tried.

For instance, attorney Dan Herbert argued on cross-examination women who give birth lose 500 milliliters of blood in child birth, I suppose to suggest that McDonald didn’t die from the loss of blood caused by the 24 holes in his body.

I cringed.

Those kind of sexist remarks aren’t likely to play well when there are eight women on the jury.

I doubt I will ever get the images of McDonald’s bullet-riddled dead body out of my head.

I’m pretty sure the jury won’t either.