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Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke Found Guilty Of Second-Degree Murder

REUTERS/Antonio Perez

Jon Brown Associate Editor

A jury has found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder when he shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014.

At around 10 p.m. on October 20, 2014, police were called to investigate reports that McDonald was wielding a knife and breaking into vehicles. When confronted, McDonald reportedly slashed the tires of a police car and damaged its windshield, according to the officers, and refused to give up his blade. While awaiting an officer to arrive with a Taser, Van Dyke shot McDonald, according to testimony. McDonald was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital and pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m.

The incident sparked protests, accusations of a “cover-up” and calls for the resignation of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. The Justice Department opened an investigation “into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department” because of the controversy surrounding the shooting. (RELATED: Black Lives Matter Protesters Shut Down Chicago, Call For Rahm Emanuel Resignation)

Van Dyke had been an officer for 13 years at the time of the shooting. There had been at least 20 citizen complaints against him in that time, including allegations of excessive force, according to Time.

The Chicago Police Department conducted an internal investigation which originally determined that the shooting was justified. However, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder shortly before dash cam footage surfaced that appeared to show McDonald running away from police when he was shot. For each of the 16 shots that he emptied into McDonald, Van Dyke was found guilty on one count of aggravated battery with a firearm. He was found not guilty of official misconduct.

Though originally charged with first-degree murder, the judge offered the jury the option to convict Van Dyke of murder in the second degree, which usually carries with it a sentence of less than 20 years. For a conviction of second-degree murder, a jury must agree that the defendant believed the killing was justified. Each count of aggravated battery with a firearm carries a sentence of six to 30 years imprisonment.

Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer to be convicted of murder while on duty in nearly half a century.