Laquan McDonald’s family: ‘This is a victory for America’
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Hours after Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s death, the teenager’s family gathered in the same tiny white West Side church where his funeral was held in 2014.
Back then, McDonald’s family was angry and confused after the teen was shot to death by Van Dyke in a jarring scene witnessed by millions of people on a police videotape shown over and over on TV news.
But on Friday, members of his extended family were smiling about the verdict and full of hope that his death will bring about changes nationwide in preventing civil rights abuses by police officers.
“This is a victory for America,” said Marvin Hunter, pastor of Grace Memorial Missionary Baptist Church in North Lawndale. “America was on trial.”
Hunter, a great uncle of McDonald’s, was flanked by about 25 relatives and church members as he spoke to reporters in the church.
McDonald’s mother didn’t talk, but Hunter said her reaction to the verdict was “relief” and “tears of joy.”
“Now we can go home and sleep knowing Laquan is at peace,” Hunter said.
Asked whether he feels justice was served, he said without hesitation, “Absolutely.”
“This family wanted justice because revenge belongs to God,” he said.
Hunter said he feels compassion for Van Dyke’s family.
“It was touching my heart to see their pain. But it was also bothering me that they could not see the pain that was within us. They never really gave their condolences.
“I want the world to know you can’t just go around forgiving people who, number one, don’t think they did anything wrong and number two, never asked for forgiveness. Jason Van Dyke has never asked this family for forgiveness — ever.”
Hunter said he thinks prosecutors proved Van Dyke committed first-degree murder when, on Oct. 20, 2014, the officer shot the teen, who was walking erratically in the 4100 block of South Pulaski Road. McDonald was holding a knife and high on PCP.
Hunter said he respects the jury’s decision. He also praised Judge Vincent Gaughan, whom he described as a “rough customer” in the courtroom but “fair and impartial.”
But he blasted Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the police department for what he and other critics have called an attempt to conceal the true facts of the shooting. He dubbed it “16 bullets and a cover-up.”
Hunter also said the Fraternal Order of Police contract with the city must be changed to allow the police superintendent to fire rogue cops, which, he said, is nearly impossible now.
“Jason Van Dyke believed the law of the FOP was the law of the police department,” he said.
Hunter noted one officer, Leticia Velez, was in a squad car that responded to the scene where McDonald was shot. She testified during Van Dyke’s trial that her first telephone call after the shooting was to the FOP, Hunter noted.
Still, Hunter said he’s not anti-police. He said relatives and church members are cops.
“All police officers aren’t bad, but there are bad police officers.”
He called for calm in Chicago’s streets, saying he was opposed to protests that will cause the “city to burn.”
The verdict, Hunter said, is a clarion call for African-Americans to register to vote for candidates they believe will bring about police reform.
“Why don’t we channel our anger at the polls?” he said.