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Chicago officials on Tuesday released "graphic" and "chilling" video showing an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. The footage has been described as something that "will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans."
In the dash-cam video, which a judge ordered police to release by Nov. 25, Laquan McDonald first appears about 5 minutes, 16 seconds in, and is seen walking down a street. The teen, who police say was armed with a knife, walks diagonally across the street, away from police officers at the scene.
Seconds later, an officer opens fire, and McDonald falls to the ground. At that point, the officer who fired is no longer in view, but McDonald's body appears to jerk repeatedly from additional gunshots.
Though no audio is heard in the footage, up to three puffs of smoke, which prosecutors say were identified as "clouds of debris," are seen rising from the ground near his body.
Another officer then kicks an object away from McDonald. The video does not show anyone at the scene performing aid on McDonald after the shooting.
In the moments before the video was made public, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy called for peace and calm.
"I believe this is a moment that can build bridges of understanding rather than become a barrier of misunderstanding," Emanuel said, adding that it is "fine to be passionate, but it is essential that it remain peaceful."
Emanuel noted that he will "see [the video] when it becomes public like everyone else."
The release comes on the same day the Cook County State's Attorney's office charged Officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in the shooting. Van Dyke was ordered held without bail and is expected to appear in court again Monday.
"We’ve been prepared for this day to come for quite some time," McCarthy said.
He later added, "We are not predicting doom and gloom, we are predicting protests."
Prosecutors said in court Tuesday that the shooting happened within 15 seconds, but for 13 of those seconds McDonald was on the ground. They added the video "clearly does not show McDonald advancing toward [Van Dyke]."
Police said the shooting was in self-defense and that McDonald lunged at the officer with a knife while authorities were investigating car break-ins in a trucking yard.
"I’ve been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years," Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said in Tuesday press conference. "I have personally investigated and prosecuted numerous cases of police misconduct and public corruption, I’ve been involved in hundreds of murder investigations and trials, and I’ve seen some of the most violent and graphic evidence and crime scene photos that you can only imagine. To watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is simply disturbing and I have absolutely no doubt that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans."
Attorney Dan Herbert has argued the video alone is not enough to determine if Van Dyke "acted inappropriately" when he fatally shot McDonald, though he has described the footage as "graphic and violent" and "difficult to watch." He said outside the courtroom Tuesday that the case needs to be tried in a courtroom, "not in the streets or in the media."
Alvarez revealed that Van Dyke was one of eight officers who responded to the scene on Oct. 20, 2014 after a caller reported a man was breaking into cars and stealing from them on the city's Southwest Side. It was later discovered that the suspect was armed with a knife.
Alvarez said Van Dyke was at the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, and opened fire six seconds after he got out of the car. Van Dyke was the only one of the eight officers at the scene to open fire, she said.
McDonald suffered wounds to the scalp, neck, left chest, right chest, left elbow, left forearm, right upper arm, right upper arm, right hand, right upper leg, left upper back and right lower back. An autopsy confirmed he was shot a total of 16 times and had PCP in his system.
The footage has been described as "disturbing" and so graphic that McDonald’s mother is concerned its release will prompt an uproar. Attorney Mike Robbins, who represents the McDonald family, said Thursday McDonald's mother "is not looking forward to the day this is released."
"Police officers are entrusted to uphold the law, and to provide safety to our residents," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "In this case unfortunately, it appears an officer violated that trust at every level."
Herbert maintained that he’s confident Van Dyke's actions were "not only lawful, but also within department policy and within his training."
Alvarez said that while she does not oppose the release of the dash-cam footage, she joins other city leaders in urging those who see it to "show respect and restraint in their actions."
"Violent actions will not honor the life of Laquan and it will do nothing to hold this defendant accountable for his actions," she said.
***WARNING: The video in this story is graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised. If you're having trouble viewing the video on mobile, click here.***