Chicago cop free after posting $1.5 million bail in Laquan McDonald’s shooting – Chicago Tribune

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, charged with murder in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, walked out of Cook County Jail on Monday after posting a $150,000 cashier’s check as bond.

A judge set the $1.5 million bail after viewing police dash-cam video of the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old.

“I’m not here to determine guilt or innocence,” Judge Donald Panarese Jr. said in issuing his decision in the packed courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. “The law gives a presumption of innocence.”

Van Dyke had to post 10 percent of the bond amount to obtain his release from Cook County Jail. He has been in custody since Tuesday when he was charged with first-degree murder.

Panarese said at the time that he wanted to view the video before making his decision on bond.

Prosecutors had sought to hold the veteran police officer on no bail, while Van Dyke’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert, said he was not a risk to flee if released.

Van Dyke, 37, wearing a brown Department of Corrections jumpsuit with his hands and ankles shackled, showed no expression at word of the bond.

Last week Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, set up a GoFundMe page asking for online donations for her husband’s bond, but it was taken down that same day. Although the page did not mention her husband by name, it described him as a 15-year veteran officer “fighting for his freedom and justice.”

“He is a highly decorated and respected officer,” Tiffany Van Dyke wrote. “He was in a shooting that has been covered extensively by the media and we ask for your patience for all the facts to come out in the trial. We want him to be home with his family as we go through this judicial process.”

The Police Department suspended Van Dyke without pay last week after a first-degree murder charge was filed. Van Dyke had been placed on paid desk duty after the shooting last year.

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she had decided weeks ago to charge Van Dyke but was holding off until federal authorities completed their part of the joint investigation. She said she “moved up” her decision to charge Van Dyke after a Cook County judge ruled the previous week that the video should be released to the public.

“I felt compelled in the interest of public safety to announce these state charges today,” she said Tuesday at a news conference.

At bond court last week, prosecutors said Van Dyke opened fire six seconds after exiting his squad car as McDonald was holding a knife and walking in the middle of 41st Street and Pulaski Road shortly before 10 p.m. Oct. 20, 2014.

Van Dyke then fired 16 rounds at McDonald in about 14 seconds and was reloading when another officer told him to hold his fire, prosecutors said at bond court.

The one-page criminal complaint lodged against Van Dyke charged him with shooting McDonald “without legal justification and with the intent to kill or do great bodily harm.”

At the news conference, Alvarez said she had made her decision to charge Van Dyke “internally” weeks before the judge ordered the video released to the public. Witness interviews had been done over the past year, and “up until a week ago they were still interviewing people,” she said.

“It wasn’t going to be much longer, it really wasn’t,” Alvarez said. “I would say within a month.”

Alvarez said she has never seen anything like the shooting in her three decades in law enforcement. She called the video “graphic,” “violent” and “chilling” and said it “no doubt will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

“To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing,” the prosecutor said.

Alvarez said several civilians witnessed the shooting. One motorist told authorities he never saw McDonald lunge at any officers or do anything else threatening before he was shot. McDonald also made no threatening motions while on the ground afterward, she said the motorist told authorities.

“The officer’s actions were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force,” Alvarez told reporters.

The prosecutor defended taking a year to investigate the case, saying police shootings are “highly complex matters that carry with them very unique legal issues.”

According to details of the charges released in bond court Tuesday, Van Dyke was less than an hour into his overnight shift on the night of the shooting when a call came over the police radio at 9:47 p.m. of a citizen holding McDonald after he had been caught breaking into trucks and stealing radios in a parking lot near 41st and Kildare Avenue.

Another unit responded first and said over the radio that McDonald was walking away with a knife in his hand, Assistant State’s Attorney William Delaney said. At 9:56 p.m., a beat car reported that McDonald had “popped the tire on their squad car,” Delaney said.

The dash cam on the squad car that captured the incident showed McDonald jogging south on Pulaski past a Burger King. McDonald then passed another squad car and waved his right arm with a knife visible in his right hand, Delaney said.

At 9:57 p.m., McDonald can be seen in the video walking away from the officers near the center line of Pulaski Road. Van Dyke and his partner got out of their marked Chevrolet Tahoe with their guns drawn, and Van Dyke took at least one step toward the teen and opened fire from about 10 feet away, Delaney said.

“McDonald’s arm jerks and his whole body spins around and falls to the ground,” Delaney said.

Alvarez said the video showed McDonald lying on the ground while shots continued to strike his body and the pavement near him, with puffs of debris kicking up and his arms and body jerking as he was hit. Van Dyke’s partner told authorities there was a brief pause in the shots and he saw Van Dyke reloading, so he told Van Dyke to hold his fire so he could approach and disarm McDonald.

The video then showed Van Dyke’s partner walking up to McDonald and kicking the knife out of his hand, Alvarez said.

In all, Van Dyke was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, and the first shot was fired about six seconds after he exited his squad car, Alvarez said. About 14 or 15 seconds passed between the first and last shots fired by Van Dyke, and for 13 of those seconds, McDonald was on the ground, she said.


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