Who Was Laquan McDonald? The Chicago Black Teen Had A Difficult Childhood But Wanted More For His Life
Graphic dash cam video of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was released on Tuesday, and the nearly seven minutes of footage follows McDonald from an initial police pursuit to his tragic death, an incident that led to him being shot 16 times. So, who was Laquan McDonald? The Chicago teen had a troubled life and was a ward of the state, though his uncle had temporary custody of him, according to CBS Chicago. Prior to that, he had been living with his grandmother until her death in 2013. McDonald's mother saw him on supervised visits and had previously filed a petition to regain custody of him. His father was reportedly not involved in his life.
McDonald reportedly had a juvenile record but was actively looking to better his circumstances as well as himself. Last year, McDonald worked at a Youth Advocate Program through his church, NBC Chicago reports, and had recently enrolled at the alternative education program Sullivan House High School. McDonald was attending the school for around two months prior to the incident, though he had been serving a two-day suspension for missing class the day that he was killed on Oct. 24. Despite the truancy, McDonald was described as a "very respectful and reserved" student. His most recent report card, obtained by NBC Chicago, put him firmly at a B average. His best subject was music, in which he received an "A."
Staff at Sullivan House described McDonald as incredibly warm. In an interview with Chicago's CBS affiliate, Principal Thomas Gattuso said that McDonald "was happy, outgoing, gave teachers hugs. We don’t usually see that right away but it seems our caring for students sank in for him quicker than others." Grief services have been set up to address student needs following the release of the video of McDonald's death.
McDonald's family was awarded $5 million from the city of Chicago, however this case is far from over. Jason Van Dyke, the officer who opened fire on McDonald, is facing a first-degree murder charge. Van Dyke is the first in Chicago law enforcement history to be charged with such an offense. He is currently being held without bail.
Demonstrations against such police violence have been occurring all over Chicago on Tuesday night leading up to and following the release of the dash cam video. McDonald's family issued a statement urging protesters to be peaceful, as did Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. As of late Tuesday evening, the protests were peaceful and unified — a powerful way to honor the memory of Laquan McDonald.