Newly-released Laquan McDonald documents at odds with video

CHICAGO (STMW) - Newly released documents in the fatal shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald – including original incident reports, as well as summaries filed later by detectives — show that critical aspects of some officers’ version of events are not backed up by the now widely-viewed video of the incident, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

In one case, a report filed by a detective summarizes information obtained from Jason Van Dyke, the officer now charged with murder in the death of McDonald, as well as Van Dyke’s partner, identified in the report as Joseph Walsh, and several other officers at the scene.

In the video of the Oct. 20, 2014 incident — in which McDonald was shot 16 times — the 17-year-old is not moving aggressively toward the officers. The reports, on the other hand, describe a much more threatening situation.

One report states that as Van Dyke arrived and exited his vehicle, McDonald was “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner.”

It also states that Van Dyke said he ordered McDonald to “Drop the knife!” multiple times – though the video released by the city has no audio, so that cannot be confirmed.

In the video, Van Dyke begins firing at McDonald within about 30 seconds of arriving on the scene, near Pulaski Road and 41st Street — though the other officers already on the scene did not fire.

The report, however, has Van Dyke fearing for his life.

According to what Van Dyke told the detective, McDonald “ignored Van Dyke’s verbal direction to drop the knife and continued to advance toward Van Dyke. … When McDonald got to within 10 to 15 feet of Officer Van Dyke, McDonald looked toward Van Dyke. McDonald raised the knife across his chest and over his shoulder, pointing the knife at Van Dyke.”

No such movements are apparent in the video.

“Van Dyke believed McDonald was attacking Van Dyke with the knife, and attempting to kill Van Dyke,” the detective’s report continues. “In defense of his life, Van Dyke backpedaled and fired his handgun at McDonald, to stop the attack.”

In the video, Van Dyke is not backpedaling, but in fact appears to be advancing as he fires.

“McDonald fell to the ground but continued to move and continued to grasp the knife, refusing to let go of it,” the detective’s report continues. “Van Dyke continued to fire his weapon at McDonald as McDonald was on the ground, as McDonald appeared to be attempting to get up, all the while continuing to point the knife at Van Dyke. The slide on Van Dyke’s pistol locked in the rearward position, indicating the weapon was empty. Van Dyke performed a tactical reload of his pistol with a new magazine and then assessed the situation. McDonald was no longer moving and the threat had been mitigated …”

In the video, McDonald is twitching as more bullets struck him, but makes no move to get up after falling to the ground.

That same detective’s report goes on to note that Walsh also was interviewed, and that “Walsh related the same facts as his partner.”

But the video of the incident — released only late last month after a long court battle — was enough to prompt the city to settle with McDonald’s family for $5 million, before a lawsuit even had been filed.

The incident started when a man called 911 to report that a knife-wielding offender had threatened him and was attempting to break into vehicles in an Archer Heights trucking yard at 41st and Kildare.

Two police officers responded to the call on the Southwest Side and found McDonald about a block away holding a knife in his right hand, Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton had said at the time of the settlement in April.

When the teenager was ordered to drop the knife, he ignored the demand and kept walking along 40th Street toward Pulaski away from the officers.

Patton then described how one of the officers followed McDonald on foot “kind of beside” the teenager while the other officer followed behind in a marked squad car and called a dispatcher to request a back-up unit with a Taser.

The slow pursuit continued until McDonald neared Pulaski, potentially endangering civilians. That’s when the officer in the squad car pulled in front of the teenager to block his path.

According to Patton, McDonald responded by using the knife to puncture one of the squad car’s front tires and struck the windshield with a knife before continuing through a Burger King parking lot and onto Pulaski.

By that point, two additional squad cars reported to the scene, one equipped with a dashboard camera that recorded the deadly shooting. The squad car with the camera followed behind McDonald.

The other squad car pulled up beside, then in front of the teenager and both officers jumped out with their guns drawn. One of those officers — since identified as Van Dyke — then opened fire and shot McDonald 16 times, all of it recorded — and, now, viewed all over the country.

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