CHICAGO -- A white Chicago police officer accused of fatally shooting a black teenager was charged with murder Tuesday, just a day ahead of a deadline for the city to release a squad-car video of the killing.
In court Tuesday, a prosecutor said Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder and denied bond. Earlier in the day, the 37-year-old defendant and his attorney declined comment as they arrived at the courthouse.
Van Dyke, 37, a 14-year veteran of the force has been stripped of his police powers since the shooting, pending the result of state and federal investigations. A judge ordered the dash-cam recording of the shooting to be released by Wednesday after city officials had argued for months it couldn't be made public until the conclusion of several investigations.
A prosecutor said in court Tuesday that the video, which has no audio, shows that Van Dyke fired all 16 shots in under 15 seconds, and that more than a dozen bullets hit McDonald after he was already on the ground.
Jeff Neslund, an attorney for McDonald's family, told CBS Chicago recently that the dashboard camera video shows a brutal "execution." He says it proves the teen was walking away when he was shot.
"The first shot or two seem to spin him on the ground. He falls down. He's down on the ground, and for the next 30 seconds or so, in this video, the officer just continues to shoot," Neslund said. "What you see are graphic puffs of smoke rising from Laquan and intermittently his body twitching, in reaction to the shots."
That account was echoed by State's Attorney Anita Alvarez during a Tuesday press conference.
"This officer went overboard, he abused his authority," Alvarez said. She noted that a witness also indicated that McDonald appeared to be trying to move away from police, and that Van Dyke was allegedly preparing to reload his weapon when another officer intervened and stopped him.
Alvarez said that after the shooting stopped, an officer approached McDonald and kicked the 3-inch knife he had been holding away from his hand. No officer seen on video appeared to offer medical assistance to the teen, Alvarez said.
The police union said McDonald was armed with a knife, high on PCP, and ignoring police orders to drop his weapon before eventually lunging at officers. Van Dyke's attorney has said the officer opened fire in fear for his life.
An autopsy report says McDonald was shot at least twice in his back. It also said PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, was found in the teen's system.
Chicago police also moved late Monday to discipline a second officer who had shot and killed an unarmed black woman in 2012 in another incident causing tensions between the department and minority communities.
Superintendent Garry McCarthy recommended firing Officer Dante Servin for the shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, saying Servin showed "incredibly poor judgment."
A jury had acquitted Servin of involuntary manslaughter and other charges last April.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called together a number of community leaders Monday to appeal for help calming the emotions that have built up over the McDonald shooting.
Some attendees said city officials waited too long to ask for their involvement.
"You had this tape for a year and you are only talking to us now because you need our help keeping things calm," one of the ministers, Corey Brooks, said after the meeting.
Ira Acree, who described the meeting with Emanuel as "very tense, very contentious," said the mayor expressed concerns about the prospect of any demonstrations getting out of control.
Another minister who attended, Jedidiah Brown, said emotions were running so high that there would be no stopping major protests once the video is released.
The fears of unrest stem from longstanding tensions between the Chicago police and minority communities, partly due to the department's dogged reputation for brutality, particularly involving blacks.
Dozens of men, mostly African American, said they were subjected to torture at the hands of a Chicago police squad headed by former commander Jon Burge during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s, and many spent years in prison.
Burge was eventually convicted of lying about the torture and served 4 ½ years in prison.
Acree and Hatch said blacks in the city are upset because the officer in the Rekia Boyd fatal shooting, though stripped of his police powers, has been assigned to desk duty and not fired.
"They had the opportunity to be a good example and a model across the country on how to improve police and community relations and they missed it," Acree said.
The Police Department said placing an officer on desk duty after a shooting is standard procedure and that it is prohibited from doing anything more during the investigations.