The Killing of Laquan McDonald

It’s not what Laquan did or did not do. Rather, it is what the Chicago Police Department did after officer Jason Van Dyke killed Laquan.

Brandon Smith’s introduction on The Guardian, says that he  is a Chicago-based independent journalist who, with the help of whistleblowers and the Freedom of Information Act, has reported on civil rights abuses, privatization of public assets, digital privacy concerns and pollution of land and water.”

Journalist Brandon Smith, left, and activist William Calloway talk to reporters Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, after a Cook County judge ordered the Chicago Police Department to release a video of an officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Nov. 25, in Chicago. The video is said to show the officer shooting McDonald 16 times in October 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Journalist Brandon Smith, left, and activist William Calloway (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

“Independent journalist.” I like that title because it reflects a form of journalism that has almost gone the way of the dinosaur. It would be correct to replace “independent” with “investigative” in this matter, because what Brandon Smith did goes beyond reporting. Without the backing of a publication to finance his endeavors, Brandon Smith did not have to proceed at his own costs. Brandon worked along with another independent journalist, Jamie Kalven, and University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman. Because they are independent journalists, they aren’t often issued press credentials to attend press conferences and such.  In fact, he was not allowed to attend the press conference that discussed the release of video that came about due to his persistence and good work.

Had they not been independent and determined, we would not have the video of the killing of Laquan McDonald. Without the release of the video, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke would still be on paid desk duty; and his fictionalized report of what happened would be business as usual in cover-ups.

Kalven filed the Freedom of Information request for the video. The City declined his request. Brandon’s battle for release of the video began in May, 2015. In an article published in The Chicago Reader on August 7, 2015, Brandon wrote:

“But I’m not taking no for an answer—particularly in light of Kalven v. Chicago, an Illinois Appellate Court decision last March that established information about police misconduct is public, except in limited circumstances that don’t apply in the case of the McDonald shooting video.”

For those not familiar, when a Freedom of Information Act has been declined, the party making the request can file a lawsuit with the court asking that the court order the release of the requested information. That is what Brandon did, and that is what the judge ordered. The judge set the date of November 25, 2015 as the deadline to release the video.

van dyke

Jason Van Dyke

In court, the City of Chicago fought against the release of the video saying that it would jeopardize their investigation. Laquan was killed by Van Dyke on October 20, 2014.   He was 17-years old.  Funny – as soon as the court ordered the release of the video, their investigation must have ended because the Chicago police officer who fired 16 bullets into Laquan McDonald was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. If the Chicago Police Department’s investigation relied on that video, the investigation should have concluded, and Van Dyke arrested, before the New Year bells range-in 2015.

Brandon wrote in his article for the Guardian that activist William Calloway was his inspiration for seeking the video. Fourteen news organizations had refused to request the video, and about the same did request the video, only to be refused. Brandon actually started his request back in April. It was also in April that the City Council Finance Committee recommended giving Laquan’s family a $5 million settlement, although no suit had been filed. In June 2015, the settlement offer was approved.



Laquan McDonald

In the autopsy report, performed on October 21, 2014 and signed January 15, 2015, Laquan’s toxicology report was negative for benzoylecgonine, ethanol and opiates. It made no mention of the presence of PCP. In April 2015, (the month that the City of Chicago started negotiating the settlement to Laquan’s family), the Chicago Tribune reported that they obtained Laquan’s autopsy from “the March 31 toxicology report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The PCP is what some people, who justify the killing, are using to say that Laquan justified being killed.  The 3 page “AMENDED” toxicology report was signed by Michael Wagner on March 31, 2015.  The toxicologist was not given a gender nor date of birth for the person whose body fluids he was testing.

The police report says that Laquan lunged at the officers while holding a three-inch knife. According to them, the officer, fearing for his life, fired one shot into Laquan’s chest.

The video shows that Laquan was by-passing the officers, as if getting out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. There was no lunging.  The way that he was walking was if Laquan had no idea that he was the “suspect” that the police were there to apprehend.

The district manager for a local Burger King told NBC news that their security cameras captured what happened before the shooting. A 911 caller reported that a man was in the parking lot of a trucking company slashing tires and threatened him with a knife. Laquan had walked through the Burger King parking lot. After the shooting, according to Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King, 4 to 5 police officers entered the restaurant and asked to see the video. They were given the password to the equipment and left three hours later.  Burger King wanted to be a help and cooperated without a search warrant.  The next day, an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to see the video tape and discovered that 86 minutes of it was missing. Darshane told NBC, “We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files.


A University of Chicago database revealed that in his 14-year career as a police officer, at least 18 citizen complaints were filed against Van Dyke.  Eight alleged excessive force.  Two involved the use of a firearm.  (The killing of Laquan now makes that three.)  Van Dyke was never disciplined.  Alison Flowers of the University stated;

“We don’t have all of Van Dyke’s complaints but the complaints of, the misconduct complaints from Van Dyke that we do have in our data tool show by and large excessive force and racial slurs. And he has largely operated with impunity and under a code of silence with the same huddle of officers again and again.”

Attorney Daniel Q. Herbert is representing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.   He doesn’t want people to prejudge, nor try the case in the media. It’s too bad that Van Dyke did not give Laquan that same opportunity.


The following video is from May 2015.   It describes the reason given by the City for not releasing the video, and that Laquan’s family saw the video as part of the settlement, but agreed not to release it. It also presents the attorney for Laquan’s family addressing the missing portion of the Burger King video.





Posted on 11/27/2015, in Cases, Cops Gone Wild, Department of Justice, Laquan McDonald and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 51 Comments.

  1. Another disgraceful murder

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was thinking this myself >> as soon as the video was release, the officer was arrested. Did the police chief not know before that this was cold blooded murder!?

    Apparently we need to hire an investigative journalist for each police shooting in order to receive truth and justice.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I watching mayor Rahm Emanuel speak and he is basically saying that it will be a challenge to get to a point where police recognize the humanity of people.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Glenn, he’s full of ca-ca. He appoints the Chief of Police. All he has to do is appoint one who does recognize the humanity of people. However, I still hear him. Chicago has a reputation for biased police in some districts, that go back to the days of Capone. It’s like a generational curse.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I know it certainly seems that way, but it is my hope that he is very wrong about that.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey Glenn. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Yet after the video was released, you would think that the police chief and Mayor Emanuel had conducted some type of special investigation.

    I remember when Sherman Skolnick, as an independent journalist, caused the resignation of two Illinois Supreme Court justices. John Paul Stevens was the special U.S. Attorney that took over the investigation, and it served as a stepping stone to his appointed on the Supreme Court.

    Skolnick also accused Otto Kerner of bribery. Kerner was a former governor of Illinois who had been appointed to the court of Federal Appeals. He was prosecuted and sent to prison.

    Because of Skolnick’s investigations, he had to change his public image to a conspiracy theorists in order to prevent “disappearing.”

    I hope that Brandon is not offered a position with a publication where his independence and investigative qualities will be hindered.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Lie lie lie.
    Lie lie lie lie.
    Lie lie lie lie lie lie.
    Lie lie.
    Lie lie lie lie.

    —— excerpt from the schedule of most officials and public “servants.”

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Two sides to a story

    Kudos to intrepid independent journalists and livestreamers everywhere. We will win. It may take decades, but we will end this culture of violence.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is sickening. THIS INVOLVES POLITICAL CORRUPTION AND A CONSPIRACY TO COVER UP. The police lied at the beginning of the investigation without any retraction. The police obstructed justice with destruction of evidence when they deleted Burger King security tapes; Mayor Emanuel who was resistant to compensating Jon Burge’s former prisoners who were tortured and falsely imprisoned for years, all of sudden gets a conscience after he is re-elected. He then decides to settle without any court hearings with Laquan’s supposed family who were receptive to accepting 5 million dollars while not going public with the video. No one was charged at this time; Nothing was done until a brave journalist had the guts to fight via the courts, the public release of the video over a year later. Only after the judicially forced release of this tape is this poor excuse of an police officer charged with a felony. This whole event depicts a conspiracy for a cover up. Their hands are so dirty, that this is the first time ever, that a police officer has been charged with murder.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. yahtzeebutterfly

    So sad and scary.

    May Laquan rest in peace.

    I do hope there will come a healing to the negative attitudes present in our society to that change and a better world have a chance to blossom.

    May goodness have a chance to soar.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. 16 bullets… I’m sure the report said, “suspect charged me with a AK47 and only by reloading was I able to stop him in his tracks.” The Blue Code of silence finally might not work here…

    Liked by 3 people

    • Juan,
      You’re pretty close regarding the official report. It said that Laquan “lunged” at the officer with a knife. That report was repeated in the media, over and over and over again. Chicago activists said, in so many words, “Release the tape so we can see for ourselves.” Chicago PD said “Uh. We’re investigating.”

      Liked by 4 people

      • So if someone lunges at an officer, it requires 16 bullets? I mean it isn’t like he said he came running at him and the only way to stop him was to shoot – and even then 16 bullets??!!! Am I not understanding something here?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Rachael,
          In the original report, it said that one shot was fired to Laquan’s chest. After the autopsy, they discovered that Van Dyke was getting ready to reload his gun before another officer stopped him. So, even 16 bullets were not enough for him. I suppose those 18 complaints with never being disciplined emboldened him.

          Liked by 3 people

        • A woman in St. Augustine lunged at officers with a knife during a stand off at a Papa John’s pizza. a few days ago. A White woman. They shot her with ‘bean bags’…

          Liked by 3 people

          • Hey Mindyme.
            There are reports that an officer called for officers with tazers to come to the scene. I guess the Chicago police department rations out tazers. Of all the officers on the scene, only Van Dyke fired his weapon. There is something wrong with that guy.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Is the prosecutor over reaching for a 1st degree murder charge? Doing that to be sure he’ll never be convicted?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mindyme,
            It’s not overreaching if lesser included offenses are included in jury instructions. I do think the evidence of the video shows 1st degree murder according to Illinois statute.

            Liked by 2 people

  10. This: “Funny – as soon as the court ordered the release of the video, their investigation must have ended because the Chicago police officer who fired 16 bullets into Laquan McDonald was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.”

    Ironic isn’t it?

    Liked by 3 people

  11. So the weird amended TOX screen shows PCP? Who does PCP? I’ve never even seen it before & the only thing I’ve seen close to something like that was acid. Wayyyy back!

    And is the video of him smashing cop car’s window & tire? Cuz if not. It didn’t happen.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Shannon,
      That might be why they deleted over 80 minutes of the Burger King video. At least one report was that the cameras might have captured a portion of the parking lot where it was said Laquan was slashing tires. As we can see in the video, he was not slashing tires on a police car, nor breaking a window. If he was, the dash cams on the those vehicles should have captured at least some of it.

      Now, let’s say that Laquan was on PCP, ABC, CBS, (trying to be funny) and had slashed tires, leaped tall buildings in a single bound, and walked on water. That still did not justify Van Dyke shooting him. Laquan deserved his day in court just like Van Dyke does.

      Liked by 3 people

  12. The National Bar Association has asked Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Because I believe this was a conspiracy to cover up from the police dept to the district attorney’s office to the mayor…I believe that the officers who erased the tape should be charged for “obstruction of justice.” The police chief who allowed for this needs to be gone. Mayor Emanuel needs to be charged along with many prior Chicago politicians. This is Watergate in Chicago!!! Call it Chicagogate!!..These conspirators are whitewashing all their actions by charging Police Officer Van Dyke with 1st degree murder which will be impossible to get a jury to turn in a verdict of “guilty” because technically the facts of the case support 2nd degree murder. Once things die down, mark my words, there will be a settlement with lower charges.This case will never have its day in court.

    Liked by 2 people

    • not saying you are making this mistake, but many think pre meditation means you had to get up that morning and decide i am going to go kill somebody today….pre meditation can happen in SECONDS…….when you decide do i shoot this guy in the leg and stop him? or do i shoot him in the head and kill him…..that is PRE meditation, and the decision to shoot in the head OR 16 times = pre meditated killing.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Gronda,
      There is an opinion that State’s Attorney Alverez “overcharged” because she undercharged another officer, and the judge dismissed the case. In my opinion, first degree murder is not an overcharge in this case. In Illinois, first degree murder requires an intention to kill or do great bodily harm to that individual (or knew that the act would do so); or knows that the acts created a strong probability of causing death. In this case, firing 16 bullets into a person who fell after the first shot is evidence of a strong probability of causing death.

      Van Dyke will no doubt have his day in court, but the question is whether it will be a jury or bench trial. Bench trials in Illinois for members of law enforcement generally end with acquittal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are probably right. This needs to go before a jury. First murder charge may be appropriate in a legal sense, but in a practical sense it may be easier for a defense attorney to wiggle his client into a hung jury.I just want to be sure that he does real jail time.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hey Gronda. At least with the first degree murder charge there will be lesser offenses included for the jury to decide — if this goes to a jury rather than a bench trial. The cover-up and dilatory tactics really betrays the trust of Chicago citizens. Election time in Chicago should be interesting.

          Liked by 3 people

  14. More tragic news. The only silver lining is that the technology we have available shows us the truth of what happened, ugly as that is.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Eurobrat,
      Yes! That is what is causing more and more people to wake-up to the possibility of false police reports. But now, we have “experts” telling us that videos do not show us the officer’s view. They say that we cannot know what the officer was thinking. In other words, the law is being interpreted to thinking rather than the results of the officer’s actions.

      So badly, I do not want the actions of a few to impugn the entire profession. It’s kinda like automobiles that have something wrong that causes accidents of death. At least the manufacturers can have a recall and fix the problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same here, but the good cops and the good people in the justice system have to stand up and speak up against the bad apples. Otherwise, it’ll make it look like all of the cops are bad. And in this particular case, we don’t need to know what the officer was thinking–Laquan was walking away from the officers and this should’ve been handled differently than shooting him…but you already know that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  15. roderick2012

    I have always suspected that Rahm was a POS this just confirms it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good seeing you Roderick. When Rahm left his White House appointment, I suspected that he was going to run for political office in Chicago. The time was ripe in the homeland, (so to speak), of Barack Obama. He takes a strong position on gun control, and so does Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy. However, the police culture in Chicago is likened to a country of its own with it’s own rules and has been that way since the days of Capone. That was confirmed in the early 70’s during the days when Hanrahan was State’s Attorney and the cover-up of the killings of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton. In other words, the Chicago Police Department runs the city of Chicago. As its history indicates, if corruption is investigated and people in political positions prosecuted in Chicago, it requires the federal government to do so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • roderick2012

        While I was in the cafeteria getting lunch I noticed the headline that Chicago’s police chief had been fired. Someone had to take the fall for POS Rahm.

        I wonder how long he will keep his mouth shut.


  16. yahtzeebutterfly

    NBC Chicago ‏@nbcchicago 42m42 minutes ago
    ” #BREAKING: Bail set at $1.5M for officer charged with Laquan McDonald’s murder”

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Liked by 2 people

    • That he even received bond is telling. No person of color would have bond on a 1st degree murder charge having shot someone 16 times on video.


  18. Which planet are we on? There is no way that this officer should have seen the outside of a jail. Nothing better happen to him to change the subject from the City of Chicago’s malfeasance in the handling of this case.Why are we not hearing from the DOJ or the FBI on this case?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Gronda.
      The feds were asked to look into it. I have not followed up to see if they are. Bond is something that the American criminal system prides itself in on the basis of “innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” It is also suppose to guarantee that people will appear for trial. The bond/bail system is suppose to apply evenly, but as we know, there are first time offenders who cannot afford to make a thousand dollars bail. Remember that Sandra Bland’s bail was $5,000, (an excessive bail in my opinion) needing $500.00. It looked as if she had to jump through hoops to get bail and being thousands of miles from her family did not make things convenient for them. In other words, to use the bail/bond system to get out of jail pending trial, one has to be rich. I don’t know if Van Dyke has that type of property, or if someone else does and put it on the altar for him, or if the money was raised.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Which planet are we on?

      I have asked myself that question — at least once a week.

      Liked by 1 person



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  21. yahtzeebutterfly


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