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October 18, 2018
Laquan McDonald: Chicago officer convicted of killing teen
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Laquan McDonald: Chicago officer convicted of killing teen

Protesters with sign saying CONVICT VAN DYKEImage copyright

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The teenager’s killing sparked protests across the country

A white police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager four years ago in Chicago has been found guilty of second-degree murder.

Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, seconds after arriving on scene, claiming he feared for his life as the 17-year-old was armed with a knife.

The shooting on 20 October 2014 sparked public outcry. Mr Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in 2015.

Chicago is preparing for protests.

The jury of eight women and four men – one African-American, seven white, one Asian-American and three Hispanic – started deliberations on Thursday afternoon.

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Laquan McDonald

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Laquan McDonald was 17-years-old when he was shot and killed in October 2014

Mr Van Dyke was arrested in 2015 after dashcam footage appeared to show him fatally shooting Mr McDonald as he moved away from officers, contradicting official accounts. He pleaded not guilty.

If the officer is convicted of first-degree murder, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. If he receives a second-degree conviction, Mr Van Dyke may see over 15 years in jail, with the possibility of probation.

Mr Van Dyke is still a member of the Chicago Police Department, though he has been suspended without pay pending the results of the trial.

A judge ordered police to release the dashcam footage in November 2015 after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration fought to withhold the video for a year.

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Media captionDashcam footage shows the moment 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot by police in Chicago

The long-delayed footage resulted in mass protests, culminating with the dismissal of the police chief and a Department of Justice investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and practices.

Three other Chicago officers were charged last year with allegedly conspiring to cover up the fatal shooting, and they will be tried later this year.

What happened during the shooting?

According to prosecutors, Mr McDonald was holding a knife with a 3in (7.6cm) blade when he was stopped by police. Police said he had slashed a tyre on a patrol car, resulting in a stand-off between the teenager and officers.

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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder for his actions

Mr Van Dyke was not among the first officers to arrive – the policeman who was on scene first told prosecutors he saw no need to use force with Mr McDonald.

Prosecutors say Mr Van Dyke proceeded to open fire on Mr McDonald less than six seconds after he exited his patrol car, and he was the only officer who used his weapon.

Mr McDonald still had a pulse when paramedics arrived, but was declared dead at the hospital.

In the wake of the shooting, police superintendent Garry McCarthy was ousted and the county’s top prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, lost her re-election bid amid harsh criticism over her investigation of the incident.

How is Chicago preparing?

Local schools have sent out advisories to parents this week notifying them of potential “civil unrest” relating to the verdict, according to a local media.

Some schools were preparing to send students home early if the verdict was announced during the classes.

The Chicago Police Department has been planning for the verdict for months alongside community leaders.

The department said in a statement that it had “a comprehensive operating plan to ensure public safety in all of our neighbourhoods while simultaneously protecting the rights of peaceful demonstrations”.

It has placed officers on 12-hour shifts in anticipation of the trial’s outcome.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago issued an alert to members stating “it is reasonable to expect that the verdict may prompt additional protest activity”.

Cook County employees at City Hall have been told to go home early.

Source BBC News

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