The air in Chicago was heavy Tuesday as police officer Jason Van Dyke returned to court and pleaded not guilty on all counts of first-degree murder, reported CBS Chicago. In October 2014, Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Over a year later, the police department finally released the dashboard cam video of the incident, sparking fresh outrage as the public discovered McDonald was shot not once, but 16 times in 15 seconds. In the video, the teen is holding a knife, but he never approaches the cops, nor is he given a chance to drop his knife after the two cops draw their guns. They shoot him three seconds later. These facts became paramount to the case only after a journalist requested the video through the Freedom of Information Act. Otherwise, the details would have remained cloaked.
This November, over a year after McDonald's death, Van Dyke was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. According to The Washington Post, Van Dyke left Cook County Jail just a week later after paying the initial installment of $150,000 for his $1.5 million bail. Street protests, which became more prevalent after the video was released, mounted after the bail was set by the courts. Though the protests were peaceful, divisive tension was present. For protesters who wanted a federal investigation of the hearing, the fact that the Fraternal Order of Police's Chicago chapter funded the bail was even more concerning. If Van Dyke is accused, it will mark the first time in 35 years that a Chicago police officer is convicted of first-degree murder for a crime committed on the job.
Van Dyke's upcoming trial will surely create a turbulent atmosphere on the streets. Since the video of the shooting was released late in November, protesters have demanded that Mayor Rahm Emanuel step down from his position. The officer's attorney Dan Herbert even suggested moving the location of the trial to a locale outside of the city.
Van Dyke is currently suspended from the Police Department and is not being paid. Before his arraignment today, his attorney cut the suspense and revealed that he will plea not guilty to all counts. This is the first time Van Dyke has appeared in court since Dec. 18 when he was indicted. According to CNN, Van Dyke had a history of using excessive force, and even racial slurs, while on duty.