Episode 11: Van Dyke’s Police Partner Testifies

Episode 11: Van Dyke’s Police Partner Testifies

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A former cop who was on patrol with Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke took the stand Tuesday and said 17-year-old Laquan McDonald posed a threat to officers — and potentially customers at a nearby fast food restaurant — when police fatally shot him in October 2014.

Former Officer Joseph Walsh, who was partnered with Van Dyke for just the second time, testified that McDonald “swung” a knife moments before Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, an account that does not match what is seen on a police dashcam video of the shooting.

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.

Walsh said McDonald raised a knife above his waist and they were trying to stop him from entering a nearby Burger King.

Prosecutors then again played the infamous police dashcam video showing the white officer fatally shooting the black teen. Walsh said he could not point out where McDonald swung the knife because “my perspective — my angle — is totally different than this depiction.”

During questioning from Van Dyke’s lawyers, Walsh got off the stand to reenact McDonald’s movements. “I was confident that Officer Van Dyke took necessary action to save himself — and myself,” Walsh said.

Walsh, who resigned in August 2016, is among the officers facing conspiracy charges for allegedly exaggerating the threat McDonald posed to Van Dyke. He was granted immunity in his Tuesday testimony so anything he said on the stand can’t be used against him in the upcoming conspiracy trial.

Van Dyke, 40, faces two counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery, and one count of official misconduct. He is the first Chicago police officer in decades to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.

Here is a recap of some of the other testimony on Tuesday.

  • Chicago Police Officer David Ivankovich testified that he and his partner were headed toward McDonald with a Taser when they learned about the shooting from a police radio.
  • Cook County Sheriff’s Officer Adam Murphy said he arrived shortly after the shooting and saw McDonald “gasping for air.” He testified that he was going to give first aid, but stopped a few feet away when he heard an ambulance coming.

  • Judge Vincent Gaughan told the jury to ignore testimony from prosecution witness Mark Messick, an FBI forensic video expert. Messick showed the dashcam video in slow motion, with added arrows to indicate where he thought bullets hit McDonald. Gaughan said Messick is not a ballistics expert, and called the video “a little confusing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.