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Episode 17: The Initial Call

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Lawyers representing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke called a truck driver to the stand Wednesday who said he threw a cellphone and a handful of gravel at a knife-wielding man who tried attacking him.

Rudy Barillas testified that he called 911 on Oct. 20, 2014, to report a man stealing radios in a private lot. Barillas said the man then lunged at him with a knife and fled.

This episode is part of 16 Shots, a podcast first released in 2018 about the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, the trial of Officer Jason Van Dyke, and the troubled relationship between African-Americans and the Chicago Police Department. To hear all the episodes, subscribe on Pocket Casts, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

But Barillas never identified the attacker as Laquan McDonald, who was carrying a knife with a 3-inch blade when Van Dyke shot him dead about a block away.

Van Dyke would not have known that McDonald lunged at Barillas with the knife because that happened after Barillas made the 911 call.

Van Dyke, 40, faces first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct charges for shooting McDonald 16 times. The death gained national attention in November 2015 when a judge forced the city to release a police dashcam video of the white cop shooting the black 17-year-old.

It remains unclear if Van Dyke will testify in his own defense.

Here’s a look at other developments from inside the courtroom on Wednesday.

  • Chicago Police Officer Leticia Velez said McDonald looked “deranged” and in a “twilight.” She also testified that she believed McDonald had a gun because of the way he was holding his side while walking.

  • Chicago Police Sgt. William Schield testified that officers were warned in 2012 about a gun that looks like a knife. He later added that such a weapon had never been confiscated by Chicago cops.

  • Yolanda Sayre, a lawyer who teaches at the Chicago police academy, described a worksheet she gives recruits on Illinois’ use of force laws.

  • Dr. Jeremy Stayton, a resident at Mount Sinai Hospital the night of the shooting, testified that McDonald had less than a 1 percent chance of survival after being shot in the right pulmonary artery.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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