Van Dyke, who was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, sat impassively in a dark suit -- his shoulders slumped -- as the verdicts were read in the high-profile case - each count read aloud in the packed courtroom, one for each bullet that struck the teenager, Laquan McDonald. At one point, he sipped water from a bottle. He was found not guilty of official misconduct.
For three years, Chicago was racked by the political, legal and emotional impact of a chilling video that lasted only seconds: A black teenager could be seen collapsing onto a street as a white police officer shot him over and over, 16 times in the end.
Van Dyke's bond was revoked and sentencing was scheduled for October 31. He left the courtroom with an officer. Though he was originally charged with first-degree murder, jurors were instructed Thursday that they also could consider second-degree murder.
The panel of eight women and four men -- seven white, one black, three Hispanic and one Asian -- began deliberations Thursday afternoon.
Members of the jury later told reporters that Van Dyke's testimony was not credible and seemed rehearsed. The jurors, who did not give their names, said the veteran police officer did nothing to deescalate the situation that led up to the fatal shooting.
Officer Van Dyke, who is 40 and joined the Chicago police almost two decades ago, confronted Laquan, 17, along a darkened road on the city’s Southwest Side on Oct. 20, 2014. After a truck driver reported that evening that someone was breaking into vehicles in a parking lot, police officers followed Laquan, who was carrying a three-inch pocketknife and refused to stop when they told him to. The pursuit — with Laquan walking down the street and officers on foot and in squad cars behind him — ended when Officer Van Dyke arrived in a car, stepped out and shot him repeatedly, even after his body was crumpled on the street.
The jury deliberated for fewer than eight hours — a shorter period than some people had expected — and some jurors told reporters after the verdict was announced that two of them had at first leaned toward acquittal. The main debate though, the jurors said, was whether to convict Officer Van Dyke on first- or second-degree murder.
Officer Van Dyke had testified on his own behalf during the trial, saying that Laquan had given him a menacing look and angled the knife in his direction before he started shooting — actions that were not visible on the video, which jurors were shown again and again. Jurors did not find the white cop credible.
“He seemed scared on the stand,” said one man on the jury, who like other jurors did not give his name. “He was fumbling around trying to remember things exactly how they were, and his memories and the facts and other evidence didn’t line up.”
No Chicago police officer had been convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting in nearly 50 years, and this city had braced for the possibility of an acquittal and a furious response that seemed certain to follow. But when the verdict came, protesters who had gathered outside the courthouse suddenly broke into cheers. Others wept, calling out: “Justice for Laquan! Justice for Laquan!”
Dashboard-camera video from a police car gave a clear view of the shooting, though the city for months resisted releasing the images and Chicagoans only saw it 13 months after it happened, on a judge’s orders. The fallout was significant: The police superintendent was fired, the local prosecutor lost her re-election bid, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced shortly before the trial began that he would not seek re-election next year.
Police union leaders and supporters of Officer Van Dyke sharply criticized the outcome, and said it would have an instantly chilling effect on officers who were simply trying to do their jobs and stop crime. “This sham trial and shameful verdict is a message to every law enforcement officer in America that it’s not the perpetrator in front of you that you need to worry about, it’s the political operatives stabbing you in the back,” Chris Southwood, a state leader of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, said.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, suggested that the verdict could affect policing beyond Chicago, particularly when officers confront residents carrying knives and knifelike weapons. “Departments will be taking a second look at how they train officers to deal with individuals with edged weapons,” Mr. Wexler said.