Who Was Laquan McDonald?

The single image of Laquan McDonald for the past six months has been that of a 17-year-old African-American teenager dressed in a red graduation cap and gown.

Beyond the fact that he was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer the night of October 20, 2014, only a few facts about the remainder of his life have been reported.

He was the son of Tina Hunter. He had a younger sister. His father played no role in his life, according to attorneys for the McDonald family.

The 17-year-old was near the intersection of Pulaski and 41st when police encountered him carrying a small knife, which, according to an attorney for the McDonald family, can be seen on the police video expected to be released Wednesday following a Cook County judge’s order.

“The knife is actually visible. It was a small, I believe, 3-inch blade in his right hand,” said attorney Jeff Neslund. “He did not drop the knife, but that certainly was no justification or excuse to shoot a man like that.”

Ten officers were on the scene when, according to attorneys, one officer began to fire.

“Witnesses told us that there were several shots and then there was a pause, a discernable pause,” said Michael Robbins, who also represents the McDonald family.

“And then the shooting resumed,” he said.

The officer’s lawyer said he was in fear of his life that night.

An autopsy by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office showed the teen had a small amount of PCP in his bloodstream.

McDonald had a juvenile record, though those records have not been made public. His 2014 W2 shows he earned $1,100 working after school for the Youth Advocate Program.

According to a March 20, 2015, letter written to the city by family attorneys and obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, on the day he was shot and killed McDonald was serving a two-day suspension for missing a high school class the prior week.

His final report card included the following grades:
Personal Finance: A
World Studies: B
Algebra: C
Music: A
Biology: C
Reading Work Shop: B

One of his teachers, according to the letter, described him as “very respectful and reserved,” adding he was not aggressive.

Among those who attended Laquan McDonald’s funeral were Cook County judge Marianne Jackson, past teachers and social workers.

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