CHICAGO—Just a few hours after a Chicago police officer was charged with murder for gunning down a black teen last year, the city released graphic dashcam video of the shooting.
For weeks, city officials have fought in court against attempts to make the highly graphic video public, fearing a wave of protests. That came to an end Tuesday evening when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s staff handed reporters pieces of paper with a URL to the video.
That website has failed to load, presumably from a wave of traffic to the site. (DNAinfo Chicago uploaded the disturbing footage to YouTube.) The video shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald walking down a street in a neighborhood on the city’s southwest side on Oct. 20, 2014. Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the scene and within 30 seconds begins shooting at McDonald, who was holding a knife.
The shooting—at least 16 shots—lasts for about 15 seconds, during most of which McDonald is lying on the ground. His body twitches as puffs of smoke shoot up around him.
At a press conference at police headquarters before the video was released, a solemn Emanuel called for “healing” in Chicago. “This moment doesn’t speak to who we are and what we can become,” he said. “I want to work together as a city to be the city that we can be.”
Emanuel and others had forewarned of the video's graphic nature and predicted protests once it was released. He said at the press conference that he hadn't watched it himself. “I'm going to go see it when it becomes public like everyone else,” he said.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said police were “prepared” for protesters.
“We are not predicting doom and gloom,” McCarthy said. “People have a right to be angry, people have a right to protest, people have a right to free speech, but they do not have a right to criminal acts.”
Officials had argued in court that releasing the video would be a threat to public safety. But a Cook County judge last week ordered it to be released before tomorrow after a freelance journalist filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
Van Dyke, 37, was charged with first degree murder this morning—the first such charge for a Chicago on-duty police shooting in 35 years—and will spend at least the rest of the week in jail. He has a bail hearing Monday.
Family members of McDonald said that they would have preferred the video not become public, and also called for peace. "We ask for calm in Chicago," the family said in a statement released by their lawyer. "No one understands the anger more than us but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful. Don't resort to violence in Laquan's name. Let his legacy be better than that."
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.