Police Officer Charged with Murder After Shooting Teenager Dead

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Police car siren

Dashcams can prove to be very handy in the event that your car is involved in a crash. But many interesting, funny, or even tragic events have also been unintentionally captured by these increasingly-popular devices.

Dashcam footage has recently emerged of a tragic event that occurred in Chicago on 20th October 2014. The disturbing footage depicts a police officer fatally shooting a black teenager, Laquan McDonald.

The seventeen-year-old was shot dead by police while running down a road. The footage clearly shows that McDonald was not engaged in any violent or aggressive conduct towards the police or anyone else, which contradicts police statements which falsely claimed that he lunged at them with a knife immediately before being shot.

The seventeen-year-old passes by two police officers, then stands near their vehicles. One officer aims his pistol and shoots. The teen then falls to the ground and lies there, jerking his arms and legs. Shockingly, the officer empties his cartridge – shooting the teen a total of 16 times.

Police claim that McDonald had used a knife earlier to slash the tyres of a police vehicle.

The footage was made public just hours after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder. He was the only officer to use a weapon.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez describes the scene as: “graphic”, “violent” and “chilling.” She says:

“to watch a 17-year-old young man die in such a violent manner is deeply disturbing and I have absolutely no doubt this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”

This case marks the first time that a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty death in over 30 years.

The city approved a $5 million settlement for the teen’s family in April, but no amount of money could ever make up for their loss.

Now, protests are being held across Chicago, with the public support of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Obama has publicly posted on Facebook that he is “deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald”, and Mrs Clinton has highlighted the need for systemic change, saying “we cannot go on like this.”

Not the only time…

With the ever-increasing number of cameras in public places, more and more instances of police brutality have come to light.

In decades past, allegations of police misconduct often came down to the word of the brutalised against that of the officer, who would often be backed up by colleagues. This made allegations against police very difficult to prove, and meant that officers could feel confident that they could get away with horrendous acts of brutality.

But thanks to the proliferation of camera-phones, dashcams and CCTV, the likelihood of police being caught-out is higher than ever before. The McDonald video is just one of several to emerge in recent times depicting American police brutalising and even killing people without justification.

Recent footage in Australia…

Closer to home, one man travelling in Queensland was recently tasered and bullied into deleting footage of police abuse. Fortunately, he was able to recover the incriminating video.

And in rural NSW, a police officer was caught on home CCTV footage capsicum spraying friendly puppies without any provocation.

Across the country in WA, security footage recently emerged of an officer shooting dead six-year Staffordshire Terrier ‘Biggie’ when it was clear that the beloved family pet posed no threat. In fact, Biggie tried to go around the officer who then blocked his way. Biggie then sat for the officer before he was shot dead. Police in that case claimed that Biggie had tried to attack the officer, who had no choice but to pull the trigger. They were obviously unaware that a nearby house had installed a CCTV camera which covered the entire incident. Such blatant fabrications raise questions about the credibility of police statements in a number of other fatal shootings – many of which involve police claims that they were attacked with knives before pulling the trigger.

The shooting of Biggie followed the fatal shooting of another beloved pet – 11-month-old puppy ‘Hulk’ – whose devastated owners continue their fight for justice.

It is to be hoped that if anything positive can come from the tragic situation of McDonald’s death, and other unjustified shootings, it will be that police think twice before shooting people and animals without justification – after all, camera footage can trump police fabrications.

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Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist with 25 years of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. He is the Principal of Sydney Criminal Lawyers®.

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