Van Dyke Guilty of Second-Degree Murder in Shooting

A Cook County jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, but not the more serious charge of first-degree murder.

A Cook County jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, but not the more serious charge of first-degree murder, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The jury also found Van Dyke guilty of all 16 counts of aggravated battery but not guilty of official misconduct. The judge revoked Van Dyke’s bail, sending him Cook County Jail. Car horns and whoops of celebration could be heard outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced.

The jury reached its verdict in about seven hours of deliberations after three weeks of testimony by 40 witnesses. Jurors saw gruesome autopsy photos, a high-tech digital re-creation of the shooting, and the dashcam video that riled Chicago with its images of McDonald’s final moments. They saw Van Dyke, 40, take the witness stand in a high-risk move. McDonald’s “face had no expression,” Van Dyke said. “His eyes were just bugging out of his head. He had just these huge white eyes, just staring right through me.” Before he took the stand, a psychologist hired by the defense revealed that Van Dyke made a striking comment to his partner listening to police radio traffic as they drove to confront McDonald: “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.” Prosecutors hammered away at that comment in closing arguments.“Laquan McDonald was never going to walk home that night,” prosecutor Jody Gleason said. “The defendant decided that on the way to the scene. You heard what it was that he said. ‘I guess we’ll have to shoot him.’ ” Though the case has long been framed along racial lines, those themes emerged only a few times throughout the trial.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Few Details 10 Days After St. Louis Police Shoot Teen

On Sept. 26, a St. Louis officer shot a 15-year-old boy they say was armed, leaving him critically wounded. Police won’t discuss details, angering activists who said they were promised more transparency after the police shooting of Michael Brown four years ago.

It’s been more than a week since a St. Louis police officer shot a 15-year-old boy they say was armed with a gun, leaving him critically wounded. Beyond that, the department hasn’t said much else, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. What kind of gun was he carrying? Was it loaded? Did the officer yell commands at the teenager before firing? How many times did the officer fire? Is there video showing the shooting? All remain unanswered. The department did not make Police Chief John Hayden or other officials available for updates in the Sept. 26 shooting of Branden Leachman. Public Information Officer Michelle Woodling said the answers were part of an “ongoing investigation.”

The lack of information from the police department has angered activists in a community that was promised — and arguably initially given — more transparency in cases of police shootings after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson four years ago. The 15-year-old’s family says they’re in the dark, too. Jennifer Crawford, 26, said her nephew was shot four times. He has wounds to his thigh, back, right shoulder and the back of his head, she said. “He’s doing better,” Crawford said. “He’s awake and becoming a little alert. He’s not talking yet.” Mayor Lyda Krewson said she was unfamiliar with the department’s protocol as to how it releases information about police shootings, but said she “expects transparency from the police department.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago’s Van Dyke Makes Risky Decision to Testify

A tearful Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke recounted for a rapt jury what was going through his mind as he fired 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald four years ago, It remains to be seen whether his testimony helped his cause. The defense plans to rest its case on Wednesday.

In a soft, halting voice, a tearful Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke recounted for a rapt jury what was going through his mind as he fired 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald four years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. On Oct. 20, 2014, Van Dyke recalled jumping out of his squad car and locking eyes with McDonald as the teen advanced on him, holding a knife. “We never lost eye contact. Eyes were bugging out, his face was just expressionless,” said Van Dyke, choking up. “He turned his torso towards me . . . He waved the knife from his lower right side upwards across his body towards my left shoulder.” “When he did that, what did you do?” defense lawyer Randy Rueckert asked. “I shot him,” Van Dyke said

Van Dyke’s 90 minutes on the witness stand came as his defense team prepared to rest their case Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether the officer’s risky decision to take the stand helped his cause in a case that will hinge on whether jurors believe Van Dyke was justified in shooting McDonald. Statements Van Dyke made to his partner as they drove may prove more damaging than anything the officer said on the stand. Talking to psychologist Laurence Miller a few months after he was charged, Van Dyke, 40, said when he heard over a police radio that McDonald had stabbed the tire and windshield of a police cruiser, Van Dyke said to his partner, “Why didn’t they shoot him if he’s attacking them?” Before Van Dyke had laid eyes on the teen, he remarked, “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot the guy.” Miller testified that Van Dyke could have suffered from “time distortion” and likely reacted out of reflex when he opened fire.

from https://thecrimereport.org

In ‘Seismic Move,’ Nashville Cop Faces Homicide Rap

Officer Andrew Delke, 25, was charged in the July 26 shooting of Daniel Hambrick, who was hit from behind three times while running away.

Prosecutors on Thursday filed a criminal homicide charge against a white police officer who shot and killed a black man two months ago. It was a seismic move that is likely to electrify an already intense debate over race and policing, says the Tennessean. District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office alleged that Nashville Officer Andrew Delke, 25, broke the law on July 26 when he shot Daniel Hambrick, who was running away during a foot chase. Hambrick, also 25, was hit three times, twice in the back and once in the back of the head. The charge is a remarkable rebuke of a police officer in the line of duty, and it could put the entire Metropolitan Nashville Police Department on the defensive. No Nashville police officer in recent memory has been charged after shooting someone while they were on duty.

Delke surrendered to be booked into jail, quickly paid his $25,000 bond and was released by Thursday afternoon. Mayor David Briley voiced support for the charge. “In August, I spoke with Daniel Hambrick’s mother to express my condolences for her loss. I assured her that we would show respect for the life of her son, because his life mattered,” Briley said. “At that time, Ms. Hambrick asked for justice for Daniel. The District Attorney’s decision to file charges in this case is a necessary step toward that end.” Police Chief Steve Anderson announced Delke had been decomissioned, and that an internal investigation into Delke’s conduct remains open. He expressed faith in the justice system. The ACLU of Tennessee said the arrest “in and of itself sends an important – yet all too rare – message to the community that nobody is above the law.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

Van Dyke Trial Starts, Officers Back Prosecution Side

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke’s lawyers told jurors that Laquan McDonald was on a “wild rampage” through the city the night he died. But twice, Van Dyke watched on Monday as fellow officers said the threat McDonald posed on Oct. 20, 2014, did not prompt them to use deadly force.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke’s lawyers told jurors Monday that Laquan McDonald was on a “wild rampage” through the city the night he died. But twice, as testimony got underway in the Van Dyke’s murder trial, he watched as a fellow officer said the threat McDonald posed on Oct. 20, 2014, did not prompt them to use deadly force, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. One contradicted a previous claim that McDonald raised his arm toward Van Dyke “as if attacking” Van Dyke. Prosecutor Dan Weiler asked officer Dora Fontaine if she saw McDonald “raise his arm as if he was attempting to stab anyone.” Fontaine said simply “no.”

The comments from the two officers were among the more striking moments on the first day of evidence in a trial that has few surprises to yield given the years of intense scrutiny of the shooting. The testimony could be damaging to Van Dyke. Officer Joseph McElligott testified that he and and another officer answered a call, saw McDonald, and “told him to show me your hands.” McElligott said McDonald, who was 15 feet away from him, “took his hands out of his pockets, and in his right hand, he had a knife.” The officers followed McDonald as they waited for a Taser. Defense attorney Randy Rueckert noted that McDonald ran away toward a Burger King where there were trucks and people. Rueckert asked McElligott whether he thought he could open fire in that direction. “Yeah, it wouldn’t be smart,” McElligott said.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Van Dyke Opts for Jury Trial in McDonald Shooting

Attorneys for Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke announced Friday morning they will let 12 jurors selected this week decide his guilt or innocence in Laquan McDonald’s shooting. It was rare for such a critical choice — a bench or jury trial — to be decided so late in such high-profile proceedings.

In a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences, attorneys for Jason Van Dyke announced Friday morning they will let 12 jurors selected this week decide the Chicago police officer’s guilt or innocence in Laquan McDonald’s shooting, the Chicago Tribune reports. It was rare for such a critical choice — a bench or jury trial — to be decided so late in such high-profile proceedings. Opening statements are slated for Monday. A legal chess game had played out in court for months. Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan had delayed ruling on a defense request to move the trial from Chicago until after jury selection. The defense postponed its decision on whether to have a jury decide the case at all. On Friday morning, Gaughan held off ruling on whether to move the trial out of Cook County, saying he would do so after he swore in the 12th juror and five alternates when they return to the courthouse on Monday.

Van Dyke’s decision to go with a jury trial could alter the fundamental dynamic of the trial. Chicago police officers charged with criminal wrongdoing traditionally opt for bench trials, so their cases are heard by judges who should more easily strip the emotion from the case and focus on the complicated legal questions at hand. Jury selection was completed Thursday afternoon more quickly than many anticipated. The 12 jurors picked for the racially charged case — Van Dyke is white and McDonald was black — included just one African-Amercan. The remainder of the jury is composed of seven whites, three Hispanics and one Asian-American. Van Dyke, 40, a veteran of nearly 13 years as an officer at the time of the shooting, faces six counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery and one count of official misconduct for the October 2014 shooting.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Evidence Backs Some of Dallas Cop’s Shooting Story

Evidence from Botham Jean’s apartment supports Dallas officer Amber Guyger’s account that she shot Jean from across the room as she stood inside his apartment door last week. Guyger faces manslaughter charges.

Evidence from Botham Jean’s apartment supports Dallas officer Amber Guyger’s account that she shot Jean from across the room as she stood inside his apartment door, the Dallas Morning News reports. The evidence doesn’t conclusively show whether the door was unlocked or ajar. “We just don’t know,” said a law enforcement official. Jean’s family does not believe he would have left the door open. Police also found two spent cartridge casings and 10.4 grams of marijuana in the apartment. Guyger, who lives directly below Jean, shot and killed him around 10 p.m. Sept. 6 after she says she drove to the wrong level of the parking garage and mistook his apartment for her own. Guyger said the door was ajar and that she thought Jean was an intruder.

Jean’s death has prompted protests in Dallas about the shooting of a black man in his own home by a white police officer who shouldn’t have been there. Guyger was charged Sunday with manslaughter. Critics of the investigation say affidavits by the Dallas Police Department and the Texas Rangers, which took over the investigation, offer conflicting accounts, an indication that Guyger’s account changed. Guyger said the apartment was dark and that when she saw “a large silhouette,” she thought she was being burglarized, the arrest warrant affidavit says. She said she drew her gun, “gave verbal commands that were ignored” by the man she took to be a burglar and fired twice, investigators wrote. An  attorney for Jean’s family, Lee Merritt, said two independent witnesses have come forward to say they heard knocking on the door in the hallway before the shooting. Merritt said one witness reported hearing a woman’s voice saying, “Let me in, let me in.” Then they heard gunshots.

from https://thecrimereport.org

TX Cop: Man in Apartment Ignored Her Commands

An arrest affidavit says Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, in the wrong apartment, described Botham Shem Jean as looking like a large silhouette because it was dark inside. “Guyger drew her firearm, gave verbal commands that were ignored by Jean,” the affidavit says.

An arrest affidavit gives new details of what happened the night Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and killed a Botham Shem Jean inside his apartment last Thursday. She claimed she mistook Jean’s apartment for hers and opened fire, believing Jean was an intruder, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Guyger was on the wrong floor and didn’t check that the apartment was hers until after she shot Jean, the affidavit says. Jean’s door was ajar. Guyger described him as looking like a large silhouette because it was dark inside. “Guyger drew her firearm, gave verbal commands that were ignored by Jean,” the affidavit says. “As a result, Guyger fired her handgun two times striking (Jean) one time in the torso.”

Lee Merritt, the Jeans’ family attorney, scoffed at the narrative provided in the affidavit. One witness living nearby heard pounding at the door and shouting, “let me in,” Merritt said. . The other one (witness) was in the living room (of her own apartment) watching TV she also heard the same pounding at the door.” One witness heard what were likely Jean’s final words following the gunshots, “Oh my God, why did you do that?” Merritt said all of the indicators should have made it clear to Guyger that it was not her apartment. Guyger was arrested Sunday evening and released after posting a $300,000 bond. District Attorney Faith Johnson said the case will be presented to a grand jury, which will decide on the final charges against Guyger.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Dallas Officer Arrested After Apartment Killing

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge on Sunday, three days after she allegedly shot and killed a man after mistakenly entering his apartment at the complex where she also lived.

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge on Sunday, three days after she allegedly shot and killed a man after mistakenly entering his apartment at the complex where she also lived, the Associated Press reports. Guyger, 30, was released on bond. An officer for four years, she was involved in another shooting incident in May 2017, when a suspect took her taser.  Guyger, who is white, shot Botham Shem Jean, 26, a blak native of St. Lucia who worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dallas, on Thursday night. Jean died at a hospital.

The Dallas Police Department said the Texas Rangers took over the investigation to “eliminate the appearance of any potential bias.” Police Chief U. Renee Hall said that an officer later identified as Guyger returned to what she believed to be her apartment after her shift ended. She encountered Jean in the apartment and believed him to be an intruder. Hall said it police did not immediately determine details of “the interaction … between her and the victim. Then at some point she fired her weapon striking the victim.” Jean’s family hired attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Martin, a black, unarmed 17-year-old, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fl., in 2012. Brown, a black, unarmed 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, wondered whether race could have been a factor in the shooting. Her son grew up in the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Chicago Officer Freed After Jailing Over Interviews

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was released after a judge gave him what the Chicago Trirbune called a “slap-on-the-wrist” bond hike of $2,000 for giving media interviews in advance of his trial for shooting a 17-year-old in 2014.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke walked out of Cook County Jail on Thursday surrounded by a phalanx of uniformed Chicago police officers after a judge gave him a slap-on-the-wrist bond hike for giving media interviews in violation of a long-standing gag order, the Chicago Tribune reports. About 90 minutes earlier, Judge Vincent Gaughan tacked on an additional $2,000 to Van Dyke’s original $1.5 million bond, saying the officer violated the conditions of his bond when he spoke to reporters about the case a few days before the trial’s start. Gaughan’s ruling meant Van Dyke had to post just $200 to get out of custody, a much lighter punishment than the jailing sought by prosecutors. It also reflected the delicate calculation Gaughan faced. The exceptionally authoritative judge had to show that his order had teeth without inflaming the already heated case.

Last week, Van Dyke granted the Tribune his first interview since he fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. He also spoke with WFLD-Ch. 32 the next day. In both interviews he told reporters he was being punished for doing his job and would have fired his weapon only if he feared for his safety or that of other police officers or the public. Randy Rueckert, one of Van Dyke’s attorneys, said, “For 2½ years, it’s been the white cop that shot the black teenager. This has nothing to do with black or white, and for 2½ years he has had to sit there and take it.” His trial will resume Monday, when jury selection begins in earnest. The defense argued that the officer had a First Amendment right to speak with the news media, particularly after three years of largely negative coverage.

from https://thecrimereport.org