Family members of Laquan McDonald gathered at a church Friday to speak after a Cook County jury found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of murder in the teen’s 2014 shooting death.
“This day began about four years ago,” Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great uncle, said. “and it was made possible by a rogue police officer who decided that he would be judge, jury and executioner.”
Police have been acting in such away throughout the country for far too long, he said.
Hunter said he called many black lawyers and civil rights advocates after McDonald’s death but was told it was impossible to find justice in the case.
“Those people thought it was impossible to have a police officer convicted in the county of Cook, in the city of Chicago, for doing anything to a black person,” he said. “However, I continued to believe that we could get justice, and I decided to dare to believe beyond what was being said to me.”
William Calloway, the activist who fought to get video of Laquan McDonald's shooting released, also spoke to reporters Friday.
"I know the whole country is looking at Chicago right now, and I just want the country to know it was only because of God that we got justice,” he said. "We did a lot of praying. We did a lot of work. We were peaceful when we didn't want to be peaceful. There were so many police shootings after Laquan McDonald. We remained peaceful. After his tape was released, we still remained peaceful. And I thank the community for remaining peaceful and not destructive."
Hunter said he was often asked if his family was looking for revenge for McDonald’s killing.
“We must get to a place in this country where we love people and use things, and not what where we love things and use people,” he said.
Hunter said his family wanted justice “because revenge belongs to God, and it’s God’s alone.”
“This is a victory for America,” he said. “America was on trial.”
Calloway made a similar statement.
"The buck stops here in Chicago,” he said. “So to our brothers and sisters in New York, LA, Baltimore, Furgeson, Dallas -- everywhere across the country where we see these police injustices happening, the buck stops here in Chicago."
Hunter lauded special prosecutor Joseph McMahon.
“Joseph MacMahon is our hero right now,” he said to applause. “I was kind of nervous about him coming in, cause he had came from Kane County, and black people haven’t had a fair shake in Kane County all the time.”
But McMahon was vouched for by people Hunter said he respected.
“He stuck with the facts, and he allowed the facts and the facts alone to bring about the verdict that we have today,” Hunter said.
McMahon said Friday he took no pleasure in the guilty verdict but that some justice had been served for the McDonald family.
“This is a gratifying verdict,” McMahon told reporters. “We are all pleased that we have been successful in our pursuit for justice for Laquan McDonald.”
Hunter said McDonald’s family can be supported in Cook County and throughout the country by citizens who become part of the political process.
“Laquan McDonald represents all of the victims that suffered what he suffered across this country,” Hunter said.
He also evoked the names of Rosa Parks, Emmet Till and Martin Luther King Jr. as examples of black struggle being a catalyst for change.
“Right now we have Laquan McDonald, who has given us Kim Foxx, and has caused a mayor of the city of Chicago to resign,” Hunter said, referring to the Cook County State’s attorney and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to not seek re-election.
The verdict in Van Dyke’s murder trial was not just a victory for his family, Hunter said, but for families across the country.
He also said, however, that when the verdict came down he did not feel like celebrating.
“When I looked over and I saw (Van Dyke’s) wife, my mind had to go to his daughters, his wife—who didn’t pull the trigger—his daughters who didn’t pull the trigger, his father—who may have put all of the evil in him that could possibly be put in him, didn’t pull the trigger,” Hunter said. “I could see the pain in those people, and it was touching my heart to see their pain. But it was also bothering me that they couldn’t see the pain that was within us.”
He said Van Dyke never asked for forgiveness for killing McDonald, and he wasn’t “in the business” of forgiving people who don’t think they need to be forgiven.
“But at the end of the day, I can say that I did feel compassion for that family,” he said. “And if you saw them and didn’t feel compassion, then there’s something wrong with your human clock.”
He then called for Chicago and the country to heal and stay politically mindful—borrowing a rhetorical note from President Donald Trump in regards to getting rid of “rogue” police officers.
“We’ve got to drain the swamp in the city of Chicago,” he said.