Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran of the force, faces first-degree murder charges and is being held without bail until Monday—when a judge will view the police dash-cam video of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the video—which she described as “violent,” “graphic,” “chilling” and “disturbing”—shows Van Dyke open fire on McDonald within seconds after exiting his squad car. But Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, says the video doesn’t show the full picture of what happened.
Herbert joins us tonight. Below, some highlights from our conversation.
On the video’s release
“I’m hopeful that there will be peaceful demonstrations. The release of the video … it could impact our case in some respects, but right now our concern is really just to see the reaction of the public.”
On his initial reaction to the video after seeing it in October 2014
“My reaction the night I saw it was probably going to be very similar to the reaction of individuals that see it for the first time tonight or who may have already seen it.
“It’s important to note that at the time in which I first saw it, I didn’t have the ability to speak to Jason [Van Dkye], I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t know what he was experiencing. Once I found out his version of the events, and after I watched it several more times, that’s when I realized that his actions were appropriate.”
On what Van Dyke told Herbert about the shooting
“Within days–and again, I can’t get into too much in details as far as what my client told me because of the pending case–my initial concern when I saw the video is, there’s two volleys of shots. The first volley takes place when Mr. McDonald is standing up. And then there is a pause, and then there is a second volley of shots fired from my client, at the point in which Mr. McDonald is down on the ground. My concern initially was certainly more so about the second volley of shots.”
Eddie Arruza asks for clarification about the two volleys, which totaled 16 shots.
“The first volley of shots was anywhere between 12 and 13 shots. To the public, it’s going to sound excessive, but what the public needs to realize–and what the court is going to realize– is that firing 12 shots does not take a long period of time. These 12 shots very likely were fired within three seconds.
“At the point in which he fired that first volley–assuming it was 12 or 13, we’re not really sure at this point–he paused and reassessed the situation, exactly as he’s trained to do, to see whether or not deadly force needed to be used further.
“He made the tactical decision to approach Mr. McDonald, who was on the ground, to place him into custody; to put handcuffs on him. Again, at that point, Jason doesn’t necessarily know that he’s hit this individual. He can suspect that he’s hit him with his rounds, but he has no way of definitively knowing that. At some point, Mr. McDonald makes a movement, when my client now has decreased the distance between himself and Mr. McDonald to the point of within six feet. At the point he gets within six feet, Mr. McDonald makes a movement that my client believes indicates to him that this individual has the capability of getting up and stabbing and harming him. So he fires that second volley of shots.”