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Jason Van Dyke trial timeline: everything you should know

On October 20th, 2014, officers were called into Archer Heights, reporting a 17-year-old African-American male, Laquan McDonald, breaking into vehicles and whom authorities say was armed with a knife. Officer Jason Van Dyke arrived at the scene, fatally shooting McDonald 16 times. The ambulance arrived and took McDonald to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Cook County judge ruled that the Chicago Police Department must release the graphic dashboard video on November 19th, 2015.  State’s attorney, Anita Alvarez faced backlash after a prolonged wait of Van Dyke’s charges finalized only on November 24th, 2015—13 months after the incident occurred.

Protesters filled Michigan Avenue on November 26th, 2015, and announced their plans to conduct 16 days of demonstration for the number of times that McDonald was fatally shot. Protests continued into the next month, as protesters interrupted hearing of the case at City Hall. Protesters call on Anita Alvarez to resign as Cook County’s state attorney during a protest march on Mag Mile on Christmas. The official trail began Monday, September 17, 2018; prosecution has finished presenting their statements. This week, the trial resumed and the defense is presenting their statements.

Monday, September 17th, 2018:

  • In an opening statement, Van Dyke’s defense attorney told jurors “race has nothing to do” with the death of Laquan McDonald.
  • On-scene officer, McElligot, told the jurors that he ordered McDonald to drop the knife “maybe 30 times.”
  • Prior to Van Dyke’s arrival at the scene, police officers followed McDonald for almost half a mile, trying to get a hold of a Taser.
  • McElligot stated that McDonald raised a level of threat after stabbing the tire of a police car and scratching the windows with the knife.
  • On-scene officer, Dora Fontaine stated that McDonald did not attempt to stab the police or exert aggressive behavior towards the police. Fontaine also testified that Van Dyke continued to fire gunshots even after McDonald had hit the ground.
  • Prosecutor Joseph McMahon contended that race was in fact a motivating factor, and that Van Dyke in the six seconds after arriving to the scene did not have the information he needed to fire his gun.
  • The defense argued that the number of shots was not relevant if the shooting itself was a lawful decision.

Tuesday September 18th, 2018:

  • Joseph Walsh—Van Dyke’s partner the night of the incident took the stand. Walsh also testified that Van Dyke had indeed kept firing his weapon, even after McDonald had hit the ground. Walsh expressed that he still believed that McDonald was a danger at the time.
  • Fontaine took the stand once again, stating that he was not attempting to stab anyone and was not a threat to the public.
  • Another officer stated that the police felt safe in their cars.
  • Civilian Xavier Torres, who had seen McDonald getting shot, agreed that McDonald was not expressing any threatening movement and appeared to be getting away from the police.

Wednesday September 19th, 2018:

  • Mount Sinai nurse, Allan Gaya took the stand and confirmed that McDonald was pronounced dead at the hospital.
  • The dispute over when McDonald died appears to be over whether police officers at the shooting scene should have tried to aid him.
  • The defense pushed that McDonald died at the scene, while the prosecution suggested that he died once in hospital.
  • CFD paramedic, Mark Smith, treated McDonald in the ambulance and stated that McDonald had a weak impulse, but that his heart gradually weakened.
  • Arunkumar, a forensic pathologist and chief medical examiner for Cook County,takes the stand and testifies about the autopsy done on McDonald.
  • Arunkumar confirmed low doses of PCP in his blood, which may have caused hallucination, drowsiness, agitation and visual disturbances.
  • Arunkumar stated that based on the autopsy, McDonald died as a result of gunshot wounds and suffered each gunshot.
  • Arunkumar could not definitively say if McDonald was still on his feet when most of the gunshot wounds struck him. But for one wound “a shot to his right hand – he was likely lying on the pavement.”

Monday, September 24th, 2018:

  • Shaku Teas, a forensic pathologist, took the stand Monday morning to testify that the bullet that hit McDonald in the chest was the one that killed him and said he “would bleed out pretty rapidly” from the wound.
  • In addition, Dr. Teas also testified that that gunshot wound #2 occurred while McDonald was at least partially facing Jason Van Dyke. She says it was the first or second shot to occur.
  • Next to the stand, was Cook County Sheriff, Officer Jospeh Plaud, who encountered McDonald in the lockup at Juvenile Courthouse in August 2013. Plaud says McDonald hit his partner in the stomach while being moved to another cell. With this testimony, the defense seeks to prove that McDonald was a violent, out-of-control teen.
  • Tyler Sage, former Westmont Police Officer with the Rapid Response team at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center also described an encounter with Laquan McDonald in April 2014, when he resisted being taken back to his pod for the night.
  • Miguel DeJesus, an employee at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, describes his encounter with Laquan McDonald in January 2014. DeJesus said McDonald admitted to being on PCP, and struggled to put him in isolation.