I’ve been out of town so haven’t been commenting directly on the Laquan McDonald killing. Two major points.
First, I believe that the elected officials of Chicago tried to cover this up and delay justice for political gain.
The Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, must have had probable cause to indict Officer Van Dyke for the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of Mr. McDonald the moment she viewed the police dash-cam video, after her office received it two weeks later. That video, in her own words, was “everything that it has been described to be by the news accounts. It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling.”
But the timing, in late 2014, was not good.
Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
Second, as regular readers know, I frequently write about the ways that being disabled acts as a risk multiplier when it comes to interactions with police. It’s one of many risk factors – including race, class, gender, and more – that multiply as oppressive forces intersect.
McDonald was not, to my knowledge, disabled. He was, though, acting in an unpredictable way. Here’s the text we see again and again from the police report:
According to the police, the young man was walking down a street on the Southwest side of Chicago, carrying a 4-inch knife and behaving erratically. The officer reportedly told McDonald to drop the knife, but the teen did not comply. Van Dyke purportedly shot McDonald for fear of his life, claiming the teen lunged at him.
We’ve seen this before. Failure to comply resulting a quick escalation to use of lethal force, particularly when confronting black men. It’s the same pattern.