CHICAGO – The white police officer from Chicago, who shot 16 shots on Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, is guilty of second-degree murder, a jury said Friday.
The defendant Jason Van Dyke became the first police officer in Chicago to be convicted of murder in nearly 50 years for shooting. His case has been closely tracked in this city since Dashboard Camera Video was released in 2015.
Jurors also sentenced Officer Van Dyke in 16 charges of heavy battery with a firearm, one for each shot he fired in Laquan. Officer Van Dyke, who was taken out of the crowded courtroom with his hands crossed, could spend decades in prison on his conviction.
In front of the courthouse there was a group of activists who had planned protests if the officer was acquitted. cheered and sang: "Justice for Laquan! Justice for Laquan!"
The video of Laquan's death led to upheavals in the local government and police department and became a symbol of decades of mistrust between Chicago and black people. The video showed that Laquan, carrying a knife, walked away from the police as Officer Van Dyke jumped out of his patrol car and started firing. The gunfire continued after Laquan, who was 17 years old, collapsed in the street.
When the case took place over the past three weeks in a heavily guarded County Courthouse, some said that a referendum would be held to ever be held responsible to take a life. Activists pledged massive demonstrations when Officer Van Dyke was acquitted, and city officials prolonged the layers of police and made plans for protests.
"Anything less than a murder conviction, including a jury, is not justice," William Calloway said. an activist, in an interview before the verdict. "And we will respond appropriately."
After the verdict was pronounced, a group of several hundred demonstrators marched through the downtown streets as the police blocked traffic to allow them to pass. Officers accompanied the demonstrators on foot and on bicycles.
The mood was generally solemn, but there was dissatisfaction. "To shoot somebody for no reason is first-degree murder," Rebecca Johnson said, marching close to the crowd. "There's trouble, but there's relief that we've at least been convicted of murder."
The prosecutors had charged Officer Van Dyke with a first-degree murder, but Judge Vincent Gaughan also gave the jury a chance to assassinate him Convicting a second degree carries a much shorter prison sentence. The jury was told to convict a second-degree murder if they decided that the shooting was unjustified, but Officer Van Dyke believed he was acting reasonably then.
Several jurors who did not give their name spoke with reporters in the courtroom after the verdict was announced. An acquittal was never on the table, and the main debate was whether to sentence him on first or second degree murder.
The only black juror, a woman, said she was not convinced of Officer Van Dye's testimony.  "He messed up," she said. "His statement was not credible to me."
Even in the rare cases in which police officers are charged with deadly shootings, prosecutors often find it difficult to get convictions. Officer Van Dyke, 40, who has been on unpaid leave since his indictment, testified during the trial that he feared Laquan would attack him and he acted as he was trained.
"I just kept looking at this knife and I shot at it," Officer Van Dyke told the jury. "I just wanted him to get rid of this knife."
The prosecution argued that Laquan was trying to escape the officers and that he was not a deadly threat. Particularly outrageous, they said, was the decision of Officer Van Dyke to continue shooting after the teenager fell to the ground.
"He went on to shoot into a completely vulnerable, defenseless young man who twitched every time Van Dyke pushed off another bullet pumped into his body," said Joseph McMahon, the chief prosecutor. "How is that sensible and necessary?"
Laquan's death attracted little media attention, and city officials spent over a year banishing the dashboard camera video from the public. When the material was finally released under court order, outraged protesters marched for weeks chanting "16 shots and a cover-up". The police commissioner was fired. The district attorney lost her re-election bid. The police department tightened the rules on when officers can shoot and equip all patrol officers with body cameras and tanners.
Years passed until Officer Van Dyke's trial and the consequences of the Chicago case continued to change. The Department of Justice issued a devastating report that revealed a pattern of excessive force and discriminatory tactics. And on the eve of the jury's election, mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose popularity and power wore off after the release of the video, announced he would not seek re-election next year.
"That has changed the lives of everyone in this city," said Ja & # 39; s Green, an activist who is among many candidates fighting to replace Mr. Emanuel. "This has meant that people pay attention to politics and politics."