Chicago cop charged in fatal shooting has history of misconduct complaints

Officer charged with the fatal shooting of a black teenager had already accumulated 17 complaints, according to a University of Chicago database.

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, accused of fatally shooting a black teenager, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

When Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times more than a year ago, it wasn't the first time that he ended up subject of internal investigation for misconduct.

Before the fatal shooting of the black teenager, Mr. Van Dyke had already accumulated at least 18 complaints in his 14 years on the force, including allegations of police brutality and using racial epithets, but he was never disciplined, according to data from the University of Chicago and the journalism non-profit Invisible Institute.

“We don’t have all of Van Dyke’s complaints but … 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,” the Invisible Institute’s Alison Flowers told Chicago ABC affiliate WLS.

Ed Nance, one of the complainants, was awarded $350,000 by a jury after he was injured in 2007 by Van Dyke, who handcuffed him so violently during a 2007 traffic stop seriously injuring both shoulders. Nance broke into tears after he was told about the McDonald shooting, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“It just makes me so sad because it shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “He shouldn’t have been on the street in the first place after my incident.”

Dyke, who is white, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of McDonald, a black teenager, in October 2014.

The shooting was recorded on a police dash cam video, which Chicago police released to the public on Tuesday afternoon, on orders of a judge, despite opposition from Chicago's mayor, police, the victim's family, and some activists.

There were a major concern that the release of the video, which came as the result of a lawsuit from an independent journalist, has the potential to inspire violent protests in Chicago, making it a public safety issue, Patrik Jonsson reported for The Christian Science Monitor.

“The question for many is, once the video is there, what do you do with it? There’s all kinds of situations where a video can inflame a legal situation where you’d rather it be dealt with more quietly,” says Michael Kazin, a historian of US social movements at Georgetown University in Washington.

But for activists, concerns about the video have more to do with how it may be consumed more broadly by the public. That raises the question of whether its release actually supports the public’s right to know about the actions of their hired officials, or whether it’s graphic titillation that will only bring more pain to those affected.

“I worry a lot about these videos, because we have seen a lot of them and they get consumed [like entertainment,” Page May, an activist with the group We Charge Genocide, told The Chicago Reporter. “If the family didn’t want this released, then [public airing of it] just adds to the injustice. This video is about to be seen by millions of people. If [a police officer kills me], I don’t want my body turned into a viral video."

Following the video's release, demonstrators took to the streets in the city’s downtown, avoiding the larger turmoil at protests in Minneapolis, Baltimore, and Ferguson, in what The New York Times calls, “tense but largely peaceful protests”.

The Christian Science Monitor reports,

Mayor Emanuel, who had previously argued releasing the video could lead to violent confrontations such as those in Baltimore and Ferguson and has objected to characterizations of violence in Chicago as “Chiraq,” the title of a forthcoming film about the city by Spike Lee, appeared to have softened his stance.

He described the video’s release as a potential "moment of understanding and learning,” the AP reports.

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