Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty In Murder Of Laquan McDonald In Chicago, a jury found that police officer Jason Van Dyke committed murder and aggravated battery when he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
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Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty In Murder Of Laquan McDonald

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Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty In Murder Of Laquan McDonald

Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty In Murder Of Laquan McDonald

Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty In Murder Of Laquan McDonald

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In Chicago, a jury found that police officer Jason Van Dyke committed murder and aggravated battery when he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago and white police officer accused of killing a black teenager four years ago, has been found guilty. The case sparked controversy, protests and political upheaval. The verdict ends another high-profile case about police brutality in minority neighborhoods. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: At the core of this case was a police dashcam video released one year after the incident that showed police officer Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times after answering a call about a man with a knife. The video showed McDonald walking away, knife in hand. Van Dyke had initially argued McDonald was a threat, turning towards him and that he was fearful of being attacked. But none of the other officers fired their weapons during the incident, and the jury didn't buy Van Dyke's version.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We, the jury, find the defendant, Jason Van Dyke, guilty of second-degree murder.

CORLEY: Van Dyke surprised many by taking the stand. Jury members spoke to reporters afterwards, using their jury numbers and not their names. Juror Number 245 says Van Dyke probably shouldn't have testified.

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UNIDENTIFIED JUROR: His testimony wasn't credible to me. I felt like he was trying to remember stuff that he said that maybe wasn't true, and he wanted to make sure he didn't trip himself up. So I didn't really feel his testimony was credible.

CORLEY: Other jurors called it rehearsed. It was a rare moment with a police officer not only facing a charge of murder for an on-duty shooting, but actually being convicted. In Chicago, that hadn't happened for nearly 40 years. The jury also found Van Dyke guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery and not guilty of official misconduct.

Van Dyke's attorney, Dan Herbert, wasn't surprised, saying he knew once the high-profile case remained in Chicago, his client would be found guilty of something. He said their fight was to avoid a conviction of first-degree murder.

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DAN HERBERT: This was a death sentence, so there's a sense of relief. There really is. And, you know, it's an emotional moment with him and his family. And all I can say is that guy is the toughest man I have ever met in my life.

CORLEY: Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon, called in from another county to try this case, was satisfied with the verdict.

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JOE MCMAHON: Laquan McDonald was not a throwaway young man. He had his challenges, as many teenagers do, and he should've been arrested that night. But that's where this story should've ended.

CORLEY: Kevin Graham heads the police union and argued the verdict sends a message that there's no support for law enforcement and the job they do.

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KEVIN GRAHAM: They have not understood that a police officer has to make a split-second decision.

CORLEY: The Laquan McDonald shooting happened in 2014. After the dashcam video was released, there were widespread protests and charges of a cover-up roiling the city's political scene. The city's police superintendent was dismissed. The county prosecutor lost her bid for re-election. There were repeated calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who now is not running for re-election, to step down. A U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation of the police department prompted the city to institute reforms, with more to come.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Justice for Laquan. Justice for Laquan.

CORLEY: Yesterday, protesters took to the streets again, chanting justice for Laquan and saying much more needs to be done when it comes to police accountability. Through the years of this case, McDonald's family urged activists to remain peaceful. Surrounded by family members, McDonald's great uncle, Marvin Hunter, says the jury's verdict makes his nephew's legacy a symbol of the hope for justice.

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MARVIN HUNTER: For all of the mothers and fathers who have lost children at the hands of rogue and unjust police officers.

CORLEY: Jason Van Dyke's sentencing date is set for later this month. He faces a minimum of six years in prison. Three other officers, including Van Dyke's partner, face charges of covering up details of the shooting to make it appear justified. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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