Unarmed black teenager Laquan McDonald deserves justice

Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times

Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm.

Self-defense is defined as the use of reasonable force to protect oneself from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor. This is what Officer Jason Van Dyke claimed in order to justify murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

In 2015, a video of white police officer, Officer Van Dyke, was released to the public through a court order. It featured him shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, in Chicago. Once the 17-year-old fell to the ground, posing no threat since he was injured and lying motionless on the street, Dyke continued to shoot him 15 more times. In October of 2018, almost four years later, this case was brought to trial.

Throughout the trial, Van Dyke claimed self-defense. This claim is extremely problematic, not only ethically, but also logistically. He said that he fired his weapon because McDonald was in possession of a knife and because he was coming towards him. However, the video footage shows that when Van Dyke fired his gun, McDonald was clearly turned away from him and walking away. Van Dyke later admitted in court that he remembered telling his partner that they were going to have to shoot the guy they were after. This means that before he even felt threatened by McDonald, he had planned on shooting him because of his preconceived notions of criminality.

In the trial, Van Dyke made it seem like he was the victim, but he wasn’t the one with 16 bullets in his body. Fortunately, he was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one count for each time he shot McDonald to his death. He was acquitted for official misconduct. This trial and the resurfacing of the video resulted in multiple protests and a deepening in the divide between people of color and the police.

Although Van Dyke was convicted and is going to serve jail time, the same cannot be said for other cases of police brutality. This trial became one of the most followed trials in the country and has opened the eyes of many people who refuse to believe that the excessive amount of violence that police officers use towards African Americans is unjustified and inhumane.

William Calloway, an activist who fought to release the video of McDonald’s death said that “America was on trial “ and “this was a victory for America.”

This trial was, in fact, a huge step forward to reforming the police culture that has allowed for young black men, Trayvon Martin, for example, to die at the hands of white police officers. However, many people have chosen to view this case as an exception rather than a pattern that exposes how problematic the police state really is. This case functions a testimony to the embedded white supremacy of the police state. A police officer shot a black teenager 16 times but was not found guilty of official misconduct. If excessive and racially motivated violence isn’t official misconduct, then what is?

Many people chose to divert their attention when hearing about the violent crimes committed by police officers, or they justify it by saying that that one police officer is where the problem lies. However, American society needs to look at law enforcement and police culture as the cause of these problems that present themselves in individual police officers. The racial bias that has ingrained itself into police officers is one of the many reasons that so many people of color, African American men specifically, are experiencing the brute force of American racism. People of color are shot dead in the street for something as minor as loitering, while white police officers are getting away with murder.