CHICAGO (AP) — Cook County prosecutors are expected to charge a white Chicago police officer with murder in the death of a black teenager who was shot 16 times more than a year ago, an official close to the investigation said Monday night.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the charges, told The Associated Press that Jason Van Dyke is expected to be indicted Tuesday, as the city prepares to release squad-car video of the veteran officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
An attorney for Van Dyke did not respond to messages from the AP seeking comment, but said last week that the officer feared for his life and acted lawfully on the night of the incident.
Several people who have seen the video, which a judge ruled the city had to make public by Wednesday, say it shows the teenager armed with a small knife and walking away from several officers on Oct. 20, 2014. They say Van Dyke opened fire from about 15 feet and kept shooting after the teen fell to the ground. An autopsy report says McDonald was shot at least twice in his back. It also said PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, was found in the teen's system.
Also Monday night, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy recommended the firing of another officer who shot and killed an unarmed black woman in 2012.
A board that reviews allegations of misconduct by Chicago police recommended in September that Officer Dante Servin be fired for the shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. McCarthy said in a statement that he agreed with the assessment, saying Servin showed "incredibly poor judgment."
Boyd died after one of five bullets from Servin's handgun pierced her head. Servin said he fired because he felt threatened when he confronted a group at a park, and a judge found Servin not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and other charges during a trial that ended in April.
In the McDonald case, ministers, community leaders and others worry the graphic images of the shooting from the squad car dash-board camera could lead to the kind of unrest seen in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, after police-involved deaths. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called together a number of community leaders Monday to appeal for help in keeping the city calm.
The fears of unrest stem from longstanding tensions between the Chicago police and minority communities, partly due to the department's dogged reputation for brutality, particularly involving blacks. Dozens of men, mostly African American, said they were subjected to torture at the hands of a Chicago police squad headed by former commander Jon Burge during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, and many spent years in prison. Burge was eventually convicted of lying about the torture and served 4½ years in prison.
Some attendees of the community meeting said afterward that city officials waited too long after McDonald was shot to get them involved.
"You had this tape for a year and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm," one of the ministers, Corey Brooks, said after the meeting.
The judge ordered the Police Department to release the footage after the city had refused to do so for months, saying the investigations into the shooting weren't complete. Both the FBI and Cook County State's Attorney's Office had been looking into the incident.
Ira Acree, who described the meeting with Emanuel as "very tense, very contentious," said the mayor expressed concerns about the prospect of any demonstrations getting out of control.
Another minister who attended, Jedidiah Brown, said emotions were running so high that there would be no stopping major protests once the video is released.
Earlier Monday, Emanuel's office characterized the discussion as something "we regularly do on important topics." But Acree and another minister, Marshall Hatch, said it is a rare occurrence.
"This has the feeling of them scrambling," Hatch said.
The two ministers said blacks in the city are upset because the officer, though stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty and not fired.
"They had the opportunity to be a good example and a model across the country on how to improve police and community relations and they missed it," Acree said.
The Police Department said placing an officer on desk duty after a shooting is standard procedure and that it is prohibited from doing anything more during the investigations.