People are reacting to the guilty second-degree murder verdict of Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
A verdict was reached shortly before 1 p.m. But the public wouldn’t immediately know what decision 12 jurors had made in the case of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014 on the South Side of Chicago. The fatal shooting, which was captured on dashcam video released more than a year later, gained national attention. It was the subject of a violent and emotionally charged song, “16 Shots” by Chicago rapper Vic Mensa. The shots, memorialized in the song and in widely circulated video, became the rallying cry in weeks of protests that drew hundreds in 2015.
Four years after the shooting, Chicago leadership braced for the public response to the verdict. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said hours before the verdict that he had “absolute confidence” in Chicago police’s ability to manage any adverse reaction to the verdict. Community activists called for peace and called claims of possible riots trumped up.
The 21-day trial for Van Dyke ended Friday. Would the 16 bullets Van Dyke fired into LaQuan McDonald’s body render him a convicted murderer? The officer faced two counts of first-degree murder in addition to 16 counts of aggravated battery and one count of official misconduct.
People braced themselves before the verdict was announced:
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A jury deliberated for nearly seven hours before deciding Van Dyke was guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery and not guilty of the one official misconduct charge.
Then reactions poured in online.
Politicians, mayoral candidates and organizations released official statements or spoke with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Words from Ariel Atkins of Black Lives Matter:
Tweet from Mayor Rahm Emanuel in conjunction with Chicago Police Department Supt. Eddie Johnson:
Official statement from the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) State Lodge President Chris Southwood:
This is a day I never thought I’d see in America, where 12 ordinary citizens were duped into saving the asses of self-serving politicians at the expense of a dedicated public servant. This sham trial and shameful verdict is a message to every law enforcement officer in America that it’s not the perpetrator in front of you that you need to worry about, it’s the political operatives stabbing you in the back. What cop would still want to be proactive fighting crime after this disgusting charade, and are law abiding citizens ready to pay the price?
Official statement from mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle:
While nothing can make up for the senseless loss of young life, I am grateful that there is some justice for LaQuan McDonald. Like many, I saw the video and it was devastating. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
This is an important indictment not only of the actions of an individual but of the code of silence within the police department. We cannot have safe communities if we do not have police force accountable to all communities.
Official statement from Black Caucus Chair Ald. Sawyer:
The death of Laquan McDonald was a wrenching tragedy that has rocked our city to its core. We pray for peace for the McDonald family, and long remained hopeful that they would find true justice through this process. But the truth is, no matter how this verdict came down, the McDonald family lost a son that they can never get back.
Still, the black community today can find some relief. It appears Jason Van Dyke will be held accountable for his violence.
Now, we must all recommit ourselves to seeking transformational change to the way policing is done in our city. We must focus now more than ever on demanding the police accountability mechanisms that experts from the Police Accountability Task Force and the Obama Justice Department beseeched the Emanuel administration to implement. And we must continue to reckon with the fact laid bare to us all over and over again since the day the news of Laquan McDonald’s death first broke–that Chicago continues to be plagued by deep inequities and systemic racism. Until we address that underlying reality, the conditions that led to Laquan McDonald’s death will not change.
Official statement (in part) from the local Police Board:
Today, the jury returned its verdict in the criminal case brought against Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for his fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The disciplinary cases brought against Officer Van Dyke and four other officers related to this shooting remain before the Chicago Police Board, but have not been under active review because they are stayed
The Board stands ready to hear these cases once doing so will no longer prejudice or potentially jeopardize any criminal case or constitutional right. The Board will promptly and thoroughly consider any motion to lift the stay, and any hearing on such a motion will be announced at a public meeting of the Board and on the Board’s website at ChicagoPoliceBoard.org.
Tweet from Ald. Danny Solis:
Official statement from mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot:
This is a significant milestone in Chicago’s history. Going against a national trend in which juries almost always acquit on-duty police officers on criminal charges, this jury found the evidence powerful and compelling—as have so many Chicagoans in the years since Laquan McDonald’s tragic death. I commend members of the jury for doing their civic duty in such a difficult environment.
I hope that this decision marks not just a milestone, but a turning point as well. We must pray for Laquan McDonald and his family, and for all those in our city who have been affected by trauma and violence, and we must all work tirelessly to build a Chicago where all can find justice and peace.”
Tweets from Rep. Luis Gutierrez:
Official statement from mayoral candidate Willie Wilson:
First, my prayers go out to both the McDonald and Van Dyke families. This is a tragedy. Everyone has lost. The McDonald family lost their young son, a brother and his potential snuffed out, never to be known. Justice has been served.
At this uncomfortable hour, two wrongs never do make a right. However, I do believe in the 12 jurors that had, perhaps, the hardest job of all – to follow the Law of the Land, to apply it and to hand down the RIGHT verdict.
Allow your voice to be heard. Express your opinion. Hold your protests. In it all, I call for EVERY action to be peaceful, respectful and non-violent expression. I call for law enforcement to show restraint, respect and not to show any forms of retaliation at this time. We need hope for our city and we need change.
And above all, I ask God to bless each citizen. And God bless Chicago.
Official statement from Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood):
My heart goes out to Laquan’s family as they continue to grieve his loss. This is only a drop of justice in a history full of injustices against Black people and people of color. We still have a lot of work ahead of us in reforming policing, criminal justice, human services and creating opportunities for underprivileged communities.
Let us continue to organize, continue to let our voices be heard and participate in our democracy wherever and whenever we can.”
Official statement (in part) from Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey:
Laquan McDonald was our student. He could have been a senior in a Chicago public high school when he was gunned down nearly four years ago to the day in one of the most shocking instances of brutality in the history of our city.
Our members taught him, and he was a child of the communities in which they live. He was raised on streets covered in the blood of the generations before him who’ve been bludgeoned by economic, social and racial injustice. He deserved justice, and today’s verdict shows that the jury recognized his humanity and the tragedy that befell him.
Our city, however, is still suffering, and reeling from the tenure of a mayor who systematically closed schools, used public dollars to pay police settlements and ultimately covered up Laquan’s murder for political and capital interests. Emanuel spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to block the release of the dashboard camera video of Laquan’s murder until a judge ruled in November of 2015—nearly 400 days after the shooting and after he won re-election—that the mayor’s actions violated the Illinois open records laws and ordered that the video be released to the public.
We must build on this opportunity to come to grips with Rahm’s tale of two cities—one city that supports the elites and the politicians they bankroll, and another city that failed Laquan, just as it fails hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown students and their families every day. Laquan deserved first-rate early childhood programming. He deserved the opportunity to attend schools with rigorous wraparound services and supports. Instead, Rahm and his allies support an apartheid-like school district run by a handpicked Board of Education that has long neglected poor and working class Black and Brown children, and as evident in recent years, has systematically driven students and their families from the city. […]
Official statement from Alderman Anthony A. Beale:
I am pleased that justice has been served and Officer Van Dyke will face the consequences of his actions. However, today’s verdict remains a bittersweet reminder of all the young lives that have ended at the hands of those who by the color of their skin or status have too often gone free.
Hopefully, this verdict is not an anomaly but marks the beginning of a new era for our city, one in which the casual killing of people of color, of young black and brown men or those with mental or physical challenges is no longer acceptable. We have an opportunity to create a new template for action to address police accountability and implement the reforms that are
so desperately needed.
The time to do it is now!
Official statement from mayoral candidate and former Chicago Police Department Supt. Garry McCarthy:
Today’s verdict brings to a close one of the darkest chapters in Chicago’s history.
But this verdict also reminds us all of the need to come together and rise above this tragic event.
I’m appealing to every person in Chicago to wisely and compassionately reflect on the death of Laquan McDonald and this guilty verdict of Jason Van Dyke.
Together, they offer each of us the opportunity to dedicate ourselves to making Chicago a better city… not a bitter city.
It is time for us to recognize that we have more in common than in conflict.
It is time for all of us to come together around what unites us….and to stop paying so much attention to the things that divide us.
Official statement from Alderman Deborah Mell:
Today a jury ruled that Officer Jason Van Dyke has been found guilty of Second Degree Murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.
I am encouraged that our criminal justice system demonstrated to the people of Chicago that no one is above the law, particularly those who are sworn to uphold it.
I mourn with the family of Laquan McDonald and everyone who has been hurt by this tragedy. I hope that this ruling brings some sense of closure and justice to the McDonald family.
What happened to Laquan McDonald that fateful October evening in 2014 was completely avoidable. The tragedy exposed deep flaws in our systems of oversight and accountability. While I believe that we have made progress in recent years, much more important work remains. We must continue to change the culture within the Chicago Police Department and make sure that every single sworn officer has the critical training they need.
I know that officers like Mr. Van Dyke and others who abuse their power are not indicative of the entire police force and all those who proudly wear the uniform. It has been my experience that the vast majority of officers care deeply about our city and the residents they are sworn to serve and protect. They remain committed to keeping us safe and I thank them for their service.
I call on all residents to promote peace and to treat each other with love, unity, and respect so that our community and the entire City of Chicago can begin to heal.
Official statement from Rep. Sonya Harper:
The city has waited a long time to hear this verdict, Police Officer Jason Van Dyke found guilty of second-degree murder for killing Laquan McDonald. While the verdict may mean that justice
was served in this particular case, let us continue to keep our focus on creating and building policies that prevent something like this from happening again. We must continue to collaboratively work on innovative and holistic solutions to the root causes to violence, crime and prejudice in our communities as well as the root causes of misconduct within our law enforcement agencies.
Whatever we may personally feel about the verdict. Let us remember that in this case, an innocent life was lost and we should honor Laquan’s life by making sure Chicago is a place where things
like this never happen again.
<Official statement from mayoral candidate Paul Vallas
It is understood that this trial has caused great pain in our community. The verdict serves as a watershed moment for police transparency, future law enforcement training and ensuring that there is more accountability following any police incident moving forward.
For those upset with the verdict, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of Chicago’s police officers are the highest caliber individuals. They have chosen to serve because they love Chicago. These people routinely risk their lives for our safety and should not be the target of any frustration resulting from the verdict.
This trial and the life of Laquan McDonald constitute a tragic example of why Chicago must be united in demanding that we address the inequities and lack of opportunity present in so many long-neglected Chicago neighborhoods.
Let’s take this opportunity to view the verdict as a healing moment and begin moving ahead in a positive direction for all of Chicago.