The brief, troubled life of Laquan McDonald

Laquan McDonald

WBBM

CHICAGO -- For months now, the details of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald's death at the hands of a Chicago police officer have been subject to scrutiny and outrage. Less attention has been paid to the details of his life before that fateful night.

McDonald's extended family remembered him fondly at a news conference.

The Rev. Marvin Hunter, center, the great-uncle of Laquan McDonald, accompanied by other family members and supporters, speaks at a news conference Dec. 11, 2015, in Chicago.

The Rev. Marvin Hunter, center, the great-uncle of Laquan McDonald, accompanied by other family members and supporters, speaks at a news conference Dec. 11, 2015, in Chicago.

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford

"When he saw you, he greeted you with a hug. He tried to make you laugh," said the Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald's great-uncle. "He was a jokester, that's who he was."

McDonald was shot 16 times last year by a Chicago cop who is now charged with his murder. Demonstrations against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the police have proceeded almost daily since the incendiary dashcam videos were released last month.

But while there is mourning for him now in death, his record shows he received little attention -- much less love -- in the 17 mostly difficult years he lived.

According to his file from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, his troubles began at the age of 3. In December of 2000, social workers removed him from his mother's custody because of neglect.

He returned to his mother in 2002 but was removed again when workers saw that her boyfriend had beaten him up. Laquan was 5 at the time.

After that, he lived with various relatives, including his great-grandmother. But when she died in 2013, his life further unraveled to the point that on the night of his death he was classified a ward of the state.

"Laquan McDonald represents thousands of Laquan McDonalds -- same black skin, same poverty, same social and economic injustice that are put upon them," Hunter said.

His mother was not at Friday's news conference. Relatives said she is still grieving her son's death.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.