It’s been nearly four years since Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on a Southwest Side street.
On Monday, prosecutors will detail their case to jurors on the first day of opening statements. Van Dyke, 40, is the first Chicago cop in decades to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting, but that isn’t the only reason the case has gotten so much attention.
The Oct. 20, 2014, shooting was recorded on a police dashcam. That video — released 13 months later — sparked years of political fallout and put the Chicago Police Department’s troubled relationship with the African-American community in the national spotlight.
The trial will focus on McDonald and Van Dyke, but the outcome will have profound consequences for the city. Here are nine stories about the key players in the courtroom, the history of CPD, and how this shooting has already changed Chicago.
This story is part of 16 Shots, a podcast 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.
McDonald spent much of his life in a poor and violent area on Chicago’s West Side. He used marijuana and his great-grandmother said he would “normally get arrested 2-3 days a week,” according to a Chicago Tribune review of juvenile delinquency court records. Despite McDonald’s problems, the teen sometimes impressed counselors, probation officers, and even a judge.
The Chicago Tribune talked to Van Dyke in a tightly-controlled interview days before the start of his murder trial. Van Dyke — who has dozens of commendations and has also been the frequent subject of excessive-force complaints — implied he was a scapegoat and denounced “the bandwagon of hatred.” Hear more of the interview in the first episode of the 16 Shots podcast.
Judge Vincent Gaughan is known for fairness, preparedness, erratic temperament, and secrecy. He was also arrested in 1970 for nearly shooting four people, including two cops. The Chicago Tribune profiled the judge, who runs his courtroom with “a general’s dogmatic authority and a drill sergeant’s bark.”
The New York Times examined 15 cases where blacks were killed by police or died in police custody from 2014 to 2016. Officers were charged or indicted in eight of those cases. One case led to a conviction and another a guilty plea.
The video of a white Chicago police officer fatally shooting a black teenager sparked protests and political fallout. The months that followed also saw a surge in shootings. WBEZ Chicago examined what changed.
City Bureau conducted interviews and analyzed data to figure out how the protests after McDonald’s death failed to result in community-supported police reform.
Some Chicagoans who had relatives shot by police have tried to turn their personal tragedy into public action. The Chicago Reporter looks at how the survivors cope. “It’s the most f***** up club I’ve ever been in,” said Martinez Sutton, whose sister was shot to death by an off-duty cop in 2012.
The Chicago Reader has been covering police torture in Chicago and disgraced former police Commander Jon Burge for years. Here’s an archive of their articles, including a breakdown of who’s who in one of the most notorious scandals in CPD history.
AND ONE VIDEO TO WATCH: The Battered Badge
“The Battered Badge” documents the stress of being a Chicago Police officer. The 53-minute video features officers talking about the job and the emotional aftermath.