Jeremy Gorner | Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune
The lawyer for the Chicago police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald defended his client Friday, saying the officer feared for his life and video of the shooting about to be made public doesn’t show how the entire incident unfolded.
Daniel Herbert, who represents Officer Jason Van Dyke, insisted the shooting was justified and that his client’s actions fell within police department guidelines even though several other officers at the scene did not open fire.
“I can’t speak why the (other) officers didn’t shoot,” Herbert told reporters from his West Loop office. “But I certainly can speak to why my client shot, and it is he believed in his heart of hearts that he was in fear for his life, that he was concerned about the lives of (other) police officers.”
The shooting was captured on a police dashboard cam. The video is said to show the officer firing 16 rounds into McDonald’s body, many as he lay prone on the ground.
Herbert’s comments came a day after a Cook County judge ordered the video released after finding the city had failed to prove that making it public would jeopardize any investigation.
Within hours, the city did an abrupt about-face, dropping its court fight and saying it would comply with the judge’s order by making the potentially inflammatory video public before Thanksgiving.
McDonald, who was later found to have PCP in his system when he died, was acting erratically and refusing police commands to drop his knife, records show.
Officers trailed McDonald for nearly half a mile, from a trucking yard where he had been breaking into vehicles through the parking lot of a Burger King and onto busy Pulaski Road. As officers awaited backup units armed with Tasers, they tried to corral McDonald to keep him away from passers-by. At one point, McDonald used the knife to slash the front tire of a squad car trying to block his path.
Within moments of arriving at the scene, Van Dyke jumped out of his squad car with his gun drawn and opened fire on McDonald, city officials have said.
Lawyers for the McDonald family said the officer emptied his semi-automatic firearm. None of the five other officers there fired a shot, according to city officials.