CHICAGO (Reuters) - The wife of a white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black teenager said her husband is "not the monster" people think he is, the Chicago Tribune reported on Friday.
The wife of officer Jason Van Dyke, Tiffany Van Dyke, in an interview with the newspaper said he is not a trigger-happy, racist cop as he has been portrayed, but a gentle man who wanted to make a difference in law enforcement and loves his two daughters.
"He is not the monster the world now sees him as," she told the paper. "He prays for Laquan and his family. (The shooting) is not something he ever wanted to do."
Jason Van Dyke, 38, has declined to speak with the media since his arrest last fall, when he was charged with first-degree murder almost a year after he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The October 2014 shooting was captured on patrol car dashboard camera videos, but not released publicly until last fall.
The video's release came at a time of heightened national debate over policing, especially the use by police of excessive force against black men. It prompted weeks of protests, led to the firing of Chicago's police chief, a federal investigation of the police department and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.
McDonald family spokesman, Marvin Hunter, could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday. He told the Tribune he feels compassion for Van Dyke's family, but has little sympathy for the officer, saying he acted as "judge, jury and executioner."
Anne Kavanagh, media coordinator for Jason Van Dyke's attorney, Dan Herbert, said the family was no longer doing interviews and "the comments in the Chicago Tribune story stand for themselves." Herbert has said his client feared for his life and those of his fellow officers, and Van Dyke would prevail in court.
Van Dyke, who was suspended without pay after he was charged, pleaded not guilty to murder and is on bail pending the trial.
The Tribune also spoke with Van Dyke's father, Owen, who said he and his wife would continue to support their son, who he said was not a murderer. Van Dyke's African American brother-in-law, Keith Thompson, told the paper the shooting was not premeditated and not motivated by racism.
(Reporting by Justin Madden, Editing by Ben Klayman and Andrew Hay)