New Charges for Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald

Sixteen counts of aggravated assault—one per bullet—in addition to murder.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke at a court hearing in February.Antonio Perez/AP

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Prosecutors have announced that Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke will face additional criminal charges in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. Van Dyke, 38, was indicted last week on 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm—one count, apparently, for each bullet he fired at McDonald. The charges were announced Thursday morning. The new indictment—which also includes charges of first-degree murder and misconduct—replaces the original indictment.

Van Dyke was initially charged in late 2015, more than a year after the shooting, after a judge ordered the release of police dash-cam footage. Protests rocked Chicago for days. Last August, Chicago’s police chief Eddie Johnson recommended that several officers be fired or suspended over their conduct involving the McDonald shooting and investigation.

Last August, Chicago’s former top prosecutor Anita Alvarez—whose handling of the case may have cost her her job—turned the case over to special prosecutor Joseph McMahon. Van Dyke’s lawyers have tried to have the original charges against him dismissed, arguing that Alvarez tainted the original grand jury proceedings with “irregularities” while under intense pressure from the public and city officials to secure charges. On Thursday, the officer’s lawyers said in court that they saw the special prosecutor’s decision to replace the original indictment as acknowledgement that the grand jury process was riddled with problems. They also said they would file a motion to dismiss the new indictment. Van Dyke’s next court date has been set for April 20.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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