Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is taken into custody after being found guilty of murder. (AP: Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
A white Chicago police officer has been convicted of second-degree murder over the 2014 shooting of a black teenager that was captured on dashcam video.
- Van Dyke was the first police officer charged with murder in almost 50 years
- Dashcam video showed motionless teen being shot repeatedly
- Defence attorney says Van Dyke is a “sacrificial lamb”
The police footage, some of the most graphic to emerge in years, showed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald crumpling to the ground in a hail of 16 bullets as he walked away from officers.
It stoked outrage across the United States, and the high-stakes case gripped the nation’s third-largest city for nearly three years.
The shooting also led to a Federal Government inquiry and calls to reform the Chicago Police Department.
Jason Van Dyke, 40, was the first Chicago officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting in about 50 years.
He was taken into custody moments after the verdict was read.
The second-degree verdict reflected the jury’s finding that Van Dyke believed his life was in danger but that the belief was unreasonable.
The jury also had the option of first degree-murder, a charge that required a finding that the shooting was unnecessary and unreasonable.
Second-degree murder usually carries a sentence of less than 20 years in prison, especially for someone with no criminal history. Probation is also an option.
Additional convictions for each bullet fired
Van Dyke was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet — and acquitted of official misconduct.
Laquan McDonald was carrying a knife when Van Dyke fired at him on a dimly lit street where he was surrounded by other officers.
One of Chicago’s leading civil rights attorneys said the conviction sends a message to minority communities that the police reforms that began after the video became public were not just for show.
Andrew Stroth said an acquittal would have sent the opposite message, dashing hopes for change.
“I think Chicago would have erupted,” he said.
Defence attorney Dan Herbert called Van Dyke “a sacrificial lamb” offered by political and community leaders “to save themselves”.
He said it was a “sad day for law enforcement” because the verdict tells officers they cannot do their jobs.
“Police officers are going to become security guards,” he said.
The verdict was the latest chapter in a story that accelerated soon after a judge ordered the release of the video in November 2015.
The case put the city at the centre of the national conversation about police misconduct and excessive force.
The 12-person jury included just one African-American member, although black people make up one-third of Chicago’s population.
Some jurors said they spent much of their deliberations discussing whether to convict on first-degree or second-degree murder, not an acquittal.
Officers were waiting for stun gun
On the night of the shooting, officers were waiting for someone with a stun gun to use on the teenager when Van Dyke arrived, according to testimony and video.
The video, played repeatedly at trial, showed him firing even after the 17-year-old lay motionless on the ground.
Van Dyke had been on the force for 13 years when the shooting happened.
According to a database that includes reports from 2002 to 2008, and 2011 until 2015, he was the subject of at least 20 citizen complaints — eight of which alleged excessive force.
Though he was never disciplined, a jury did award $350,000 to a man who filed an excessive-force lawsuit against him.