CHICAGO: A judge on Monday set bond at $1.5 million for a white Chicago police officer charged with murder after a squad car video caught him fatally shooting a black teenager 16 times.
Officer Jason Van Dyke has been locked up since Nov. 24, when prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. On the same day, authorities released the dashcam video that shows McDonald — armed with a small knife and walking down a street on the city’s southwest side — being shot repeatedly by the 37-year-old Van Dyke.
The bond amount means Van Dyke will need $150,000 to be released.
A judge had ordered the video released the previous week. On Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she had decided a few weeks earlier to charge Van Dyke with murder and was planning to announce charges in a month. But knowing the intense public anger that the sight of the “chilling” video would generate, she announced the charges before the video’s release in an effort to encourage calm.
Van Dyke’s attorney last week reassured the judge that Van Dyke is not a flight risk, explaining that he has deep ties to the community, lives with his wife and two children in Chicago and does not possess a passport.
In the audio-free video, McDonald can be seen walking down the middle of a four-lane street. He appears to veer away from two officers as they emerge from a vehicle, drawing their guns. One of the officers, Van Dyke, opens fire from close range. McDonald spins around and crumples to the ground. The officer continues to fire.
Van Dyke’s attorney, Dan Herbert, maintains that his client feared for his life, acted lawfully and that the video does not tell the whole story. Police have said that McDonald was carrying a knife and an autopsy revealed that he had PCP, a hallucinogenic drug, in his system. Alvarez said last week that the 3-inch blade recovered from the scene had been folded into the handle.
Protesters have marched on Chicago’s streets since the video’s release. The largest and most disruptive protest blocked off part of Michigan Avenue in the downtown shopping district known as the Magnificent Mile on Black Friday, preventing access to big name stores on what is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year.