Chicago cop pleads not guilty in Laquan McDonald killing

Chicago cop pleads not guilty in Laquan McDonald killing

Overview

Updated 1:10 PM ET, Tue December 29, 2015

(CNN)Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and misconduct charges in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

McDonald’s October 2014 killing sparked intense protests and calls for the mayor to resign.

A few protesters yelled at Van Dyke and called him names as he approached the courthouse Tuesday morning for his arraignment.

“You just couldn’t wait to shoot a black man!” one person shouted.

McDonald was black. Van Dyke is white.

The suspended officer faces six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct in the killing that was captured on police dashboard camera video. A freelance journalist sued to have the footage released, arguing it was a public record. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he thought releasing it would jeopardize a federal probe of the case, but a judge found in the reporter’s favor and the video became public in November 2015, more than a year after the shooting.

The video shows McDonald walking down the middle of the street. Police later said he held a 4-inch knife in his hand. At least two squad cars are visible, and McDonald can be seen walking away from officers. His back appears to be toward the cars when he is shot 16 times. According to a criminal complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Van Dyke was the only officer to fire his gun among the at least eight other officers who responded to the scene. The complaint also said that McDonald was on PCP.

Demonstrators were outraged not just about the content of the video but it took 13 months to release it.

Van Dyke, who remained on desk duty after the shooting, had a history of complaints in his law enforcement career. He was cleared in almost every case. The allegations mostly involve excessive force, and at least one complaint alleges he used a racial slur.

There appear to have been no criminal proceedings against Van Dyke before he was charged in McDonald’s death, but a jury did award a Chicago man $350,000 after determining Van Dyke used excessive force during a traffic stop.

Van Dyke’s attorney Daniel Herbert has said Van Dyke feared for his life and insists that the video doesn’t tell the full story. “Video by nature is two-dimensional, and it distorts images,” he said. “So what appears to be clear on a video sometimes is not always that clear.”

On Tuesday, after Van Dyke’s arraignment, Herbert said he is seeking evidence that will clear his client, but he declined to give any details about what that evidence might be.