Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez on Tuesday took reporters through a minute-by-minute analysis of what she said evidence shows happened the night 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer.
After announcing charges against the officer involved in the incident and appearing in a bond court hearing, Alvarez called video of the deadly shooting "graphic," "violent" and "chilling."
"I’ve been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years," she said. "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."
Alvarez revealed that Officer Jason 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.
Several officers arrived at the scene before Van Dyke and his partner pulled up and immediately drew their weapons, she said.
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.
The shooting lasted roughly 15 seconds, 13 of which Laquan McDonald was on the ground for, she said.
Van Dyke was the only one of the eight officers to open fire, she said.
According to dash-cam video of the shooting, which is expected to be released by Wednesday, McDonald was walking away from the officers when he was shot. He 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 McDonald was shot a total of 16 times and had PCP in his system.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday.
He turned himself in to authorities Tuesday morning and was later ordered held without bail, according to the state's attorney's office. He is scheduled to appear in court again Monday as Judge Donald Panarese said he wants to see video of the shooting.
The dash-cam video, which a judge ordered police to release by Nov. 25, is said to show the teen holding a small knife and walking away from officers when one officer opens fire, spraying the teen with more than a dozen bullets and continuing to shoot as McDonald lies on the ground, according to Alvarez and an attorney for the McDonald family.
Prosecutors said in court Tuesday the video "clearly does not show McDonald advancing toward [Van Dyke]."
It is reportedly the first time a Chicago officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty shooting in nearly 35 years.
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."
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.
"It’s not unlike any video that would depict something being shot to death," Herbert said, adding that the footage is "limited" and does not show what happened before the shooting.
"The video by nature is two dimensional so the problem is it distorts distances, and distances and depth perception are important," he said. "The most critical problem is that the video does not depict what my client was seeing. It is not a video from the eyes of my client."
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 urges 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.