In his first public comments in the nearly four years since he fatally shot Laquan McDonald, Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke said he “never would have fired my gun if I didn’t think my life was in jeopardy or another citizen’s life was.”
“It’s something you have to live with forever,” Van Dyke is quoted as saying in a Chicago Tribune feature published late Tuesday.
“You don’t ever want to shoot your gun. It doesn’t matter if it’s to put down a stray animal or something like that. Nobody wants to shoot their gun.”
Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin next week. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015 after a judge ordered the city to release the damning dash-cam video of Van Dyke firing 16 rounds into the 17-year-old McDonald in October 2014.
In the Tribune interview – described as a 40-minute session tightly controlled by the officer’s attorneys — Van Dyke said that after the shooting, he went home and sat “down in the shower until the water went cold, and even then I couldn’t get out.”
Van Dyke, who called the night of the shooting “my darkest day,” said he has watched the notorious video but would not discuss the shooting. He added that he is “extremely nervous” about the trial.
“I might be looking at the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job as I was trained as a Chicago police officer.”
Van Dyke, who described himself as “a great police officer,” also said he’s “very scared” that the verdict could lead to riots.
“I think there’s been a lot of external political pressures,” he said. “It just seems like politics has been involved with this since the beginning.”