A civilian eyewitness who had a front-row seat for the shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014 told a Cook County Judge Thursday that he was never contacted by police, despite his vivid observation of the incident.
Jose Torres was driving his son to the hospital the night McDonald was shot, and stopped, he estimated, two car lengths away from where the incident unfolded.
"All I saw him doing really was trying to get away from police," Torres said. "The only thing I heard was the police shouting."
Testifying in the conspiracy trial of three officers accused of creating a false narrative of the McDonald shooting, Torres said after that shouting, the next thing he heard was gunfire.
"He just turned his head in their direction," Torres said. "As soon as I saw him turn his head to look, I heard the gunshots."
Torres, who also testified during the murder trial of officer Jason Van Dyke, told the court that the shots, fired by officer Jason Van Dyke, seemed to come in two volleys. After he saw McDonald fall to the pavement, he said he thought he detected some movement.
"As soon as he started moving, that’s when the other shots started coming in,"Torres said.
Despite his close proximity to the scene and the fact that he was an eyewitness, Torres said he was waved from the street by a police officer with a flashlight who told him to turn around and leave.
The following morning, he said he was watching news coverage of the shooting, and became upset when he heard how a spokesman described the incident.
"They’re lying," he recalled telling his wife. "This is not what happened!"
So upset at what he had seen and heard, Torres said he contacted the Independent Police Review Authority a few days later. He eventually was interviewed by an IPRA investigator a week after the shooting.
"Has any member of the Chicago Police Department ever contacted you about what you saw," special prosecutor Patricia Brown-Holmes asked Torres. “No,” he said.
On cross examination, defense attorneys tore into Torres, questioning why he had not tried harder to contact police, and questioning previous versions of the story he had told.
Defense lawyer James McKay noted that during his IPRA testimony, Torres had told the investigator, "I think he was looking for a way out—-he was trying to get escape."
"Did it look to you like he was trying to escape?" McKay asked.
"If that’s what you want to call it,” Torres replied. “He was walking away."
McKay bore in on why, if Torres was so upset, he had simply left the scene.
"Did you stop and tell that officer with the flashlight, ‘here’s my name, here’s my phone number’?" McKay asked.
"It was the first time I ever witnessed something like this,” Torres said. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do.”