CHICAGO — The bond for Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer charged with murder for shooting a 17-year-old last year, was set at $1.5 million, a judge said Monday.
Van Dyke, 37, has been held without bail since he was charged last week with first-degree murder for fatally shooting Laquan McDonald, a Chicago teenager, in October 2014.
The killing drew national attention after footage of the incident, recorded on a dashboard camera, was publicly released last week. In the footage, Van Dyke is seen firing a barrage of shots at McDonald as the teenager, who authorities say had a knife, appeared to be veering away from officers while on a city street. Many of the shots were fired after McDonald had already fallen.
Judge Donald Panarese Jr. ordered officials to release this video last week, and it was made public by police Tuesday, the same day Van Dyke was charged. But the judge said he would wait to set the bail until after viewing the video, which was released several hours after the officer was charged.
On Monday, Van Dyke attorney Daniel Herbert told WGN that his client will “definitely plead ‘not guilty’ ” if the case goes to trial. He said that, despite the protests, there are no plans to ask for the trial to be moved outside Cook County.
Herbert suggested that there are nuances that the video does not reflect that show that Van Dyke felt threatened.
“There is a lot of stuff that the video doesn’t show: distances, glances and movements, as slight as they may be,” Herbert said.
Van Dyke appeared in court Monday wearing handcuffs, leg irons and a gray prison uniform. He has been behind bars since turning himself in last Tuesday. The Cook County State’s Attorney office asked that he be held without bail, saying they believe he is a flight risk. Portions of the video showing the fatal shooting were played in court.
Meanwhile, a coalition of Latino political leaders in Chicago have called for the resignation of Anita Alvarez, the two-term Cook County state’s attorney. Alvarez has become the center of a political firestorm in Chicago for her 13-month delay in bringing first-degree murder charges against Van Dyke.
On Monday, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia joined a group of five City Council members in saying that Alverez purposely delayed prosecuting Van Dyke last fall so that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would safely get reelected to a second term last spring. Along with Alvarez’s resignation, they want a series of reforms implemented with the Chicago Police Department, including hearings on police orders governing the use of deadly force.
“This is an unconscionable miscarriage of justice that she has orchestrated for her own political gain,” Garcia told The Post. “There’s no excuse for her not having filed charges immediately after she viewed the video.”
Garcia unsuccessfully ran against Emanuel for mayor in a run-off election last April. Garcia said that if the video was released before election day, “it would have had profound consequences” on the outcome.
Chicago Alderman Ricardo Munoz told The Post that a total of seven of the 13 Latino caucus members on the Chicago City Council are behind the effort. Last week, a coalition of black city council members announced that they too wanted reforms in the police department as well as the resignations of Alvarez and Chicago Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy. The National Bar Association, a Washington-based organization representing mostly black attorneys and judges, also called for her resignation last week, saying the delay kept Van Dyke on the street longer than should have been allowed.
Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly would not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. In a broadcast interview with a local television station last week, Alvarez said her critics are “wrong and misinformed” and that all criticism of her actions is “political.” As for the delay, she said it was needed to conduct “a thorough and meticulous evaluation and investigation.”
Munoz said waiting longer than a year is questionable. “Take two, six weeks, or two months. But don’t take a year and a month. It is an obvious cover-up. They never thought a court would order a release of this video,” he said.
The rising chorus of dissent among both black and Hispanic leaders is certain to create a rocky campaign bid for Alvarez, who is up for reelection to a third term in next March’s Democratic primary.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is also protesting the delay. In what many see as the party distancing itself from the incumbent, Preckwinkle handpicked her chief of staff Kim Foxx, a former assistant state’s attorney, to run against Alvarez, who also faces a challenge by Donna More, a former federal and state prosecutor.
More participated in a Black Friday march on Michigan Avenue that drew more than 1,000 people downtown to protest the McDonald shooting. “I’m outraged at what happened. She has put politics over justice,” More said of Alvarez.