A Chicago police officer charged with murder for fatally shooting a black Chicago teenager 16 times posted bond and was released from jail Monday hours after a judge ordered his bail set at $1.5 million.
Officer Jason Van Dyke appeared in court, shackled at his waist and feet, flanked on either side by burly officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team. A spokesman said due to the high tensions of the event, the officers were there for Van Dyke’s protection.
“He’s prepared to defend himself,” said defense attorney Dan Herbert. “He’s very scared about the consequences he’s facing. He’s concerned for his wife and children.”
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder last Tuesday, more than a year after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. That same day, officials released graphic dash-cam video of the shooting, prompting a series of protests throughout the city over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The "disturbing" dash-cam footage was played in courtroom 101 during Van Dyke's bond hearing at Chicago's Criminal Court Monday.
Judge Donald Panarese watched the video, then instructed attorneys to show it again for Van Dyke, and any courtroom spectators who wanted to watch.
The video shows McDonald apparently walking away from police with a small knife in his hand during the October 2014 incident when he was fatally shot 16 times by Van Dyke.
Prosecutors said in court last week 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]."
Prosecutor Bill Delaney asked that Van Dyke remain held without bond, but the judge rejected that, saying everyone is presumed innocent and set Van Dyke’s bail at $1.5 million. Five hours later, Van Dyke posted bond and walked out of jail.
Once again Monday, Van Dyke's attorney defended his client’s actions.
“When you see the video alone, it does not seem like a justifiable shooting,” Herbert said, noting that he has information from his client which paints the shooting in a different light. “It’s a case that’s absolutely defensible, and I’m prepared to present a defense.”
Police have 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.
Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo also argued Monday that there is more to the shooting than the video reveals.
“You know,” he said, “we don’t get an officer Van Dyke view of that incident.”
An autopsy confirmed McDonald was shot a total of 16 times and had PCP in his system.
A GoFundMe page asking for donations for Van Dyke's bond last week was removed from the fundraising website after raising more than $10,000. The company cited a policy against campaigns for the defense of anyone alleged to be involved in criminal activity.
Shortly after the fundraiser was removed, a local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police created an account to raise bond money for Van Dyke.
Van Dyke is scheduled to return to court Dec. 18.