LDF Statement on the Laquan McDonald Case

The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. has described the video showing a Chicago police officer shooting 17 year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014 as yet another appalling example of a police officer demonstrating a callous disregard for the life of a young African American man. The video shows the officer shooting McDonald who is moving away from the officer and not threatening anyone at the scene. Office Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, delivering most shots after McDonald was already on the ground.

WARNING: Video contains graphic and deeply disturbing content.

“The video of the shooting of Laquan McDonald has rightfully caused the Chicago community and the nation to react with anger and revulsion,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.  Authorities released the video last night pursuant to a federal court order in a First Amendment case brought to enforce a journalist’s Freedom of Information Act request. Hours before the video was made public, the State’s Attorney for Chicago filed a murder indictment against Officer Van Dyke, an action she admitted taking earlier than planned in light of the imminent video release. At an extraordinary press conference convened by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Chief Garry McCarthy on Tuesday evening, the Mayor and police chief suggested that the actions of Officer Van Dyke are an isolated incident. 

While crediting the State’s Attorney with finally bringing charges against the officer, Sherrilyn Ifill expressed dissatisfaction with the limited scope of culpability described by city officials yesterday. “I reject the framing of this awful killing within the context of one officer’s conduct,” said Ifill. Moreover, given that other responding officers have contradicted Van Dyke’s account, LDF calls for a full investigation and release of the incident reports and statements taken from witnesses that evening. “This is not an isolated incident and must be read together with ongoing problems of excessive force by Chicago police,” said Deputy Policy Director and Senior Counsel Monique Dixon, who directs LDF’s policing reform efforts. According to a recent study, this year alone, there has been no discipline in more than 99 percent of the thousands of civilian complaints against Chicago police officers.

The manner of handling the investigation has caused alarm among community residents who have been working closely with the police department to reduce incidents of excessive force. Community residents have recently raised concerns about the responsiveness of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration to long-standing concerns about the impact of policing practices on young African Americans.

LDF is also closely monitoring events in Minneapolis, where police have now arrested three white, young men for the shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters on Monday night, which resulted in non-life-threatening injuries. Protesters have been engaged in demonstrations protesting the November 15th police shooting of 24 year-old Jamar Clark.

Eyewitness accounts contradict the police description of the events leading to the shooting of Mr. Clark. A videotape of the encounter exists, but has not yet been released, and the FBI is reportedly investigating. “We have spoken with federal officials and will await the determination of whether Monday night’s shooting meets the legal criteria for a hate crime,” said Ifill. 

Press:

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF.”

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