Anita Alvarez Is 'Very Confident' About Murder Charges For Chicago Cop

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 24, 2015 8:57PM

Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez defended her decision to charge a Chicago police officer with first-degree murder Tuesday over the fatal shooting of a black teenager nearly a year ago, in a tense press conference that also covered the harrowing yet-to-be-released video of the shooting.

Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with murder after shooting a 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014, on South Pulaski Road near the intersection of 41st Street, according to court documents. Van Dyke was arraigned in bond court this morning and ordered held without bail. If convicted, Van Dyke could face 20 years to life in prison.

According to the court proffer (the full text is below), Van Dyke fired all 16 shots from his 9mm semiautomatic pistol. The officer "was on the scene for less than 30 seconds before he started shooting, in addition to the fact that he starts shooting approximately six seconds after having gotten out of his car." Video from the officer's dashboard camera, as well as witness statements, including some from other officers on the scene, shows that at no time did McDonald advance, jump or lunge at the officer.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Alvarez said that while she had no intention to block the release of the video, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's decision to delay the release of the video, which was ordered to be made public by tomorrow, was "in the best interest of allowing federal and state law officials to conduct our investigations."

Alvarez called the video "graphic" and "violent:"

"I have prosecuted numerous cases of police misconduct and public corruption," she said. "To watch a young man die in such a violent manner is simply disturbing and I have no doubt this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans."

Alvarez has taken some significant heat for delaying the release of the video, as well as bringing charges against the officer, and the length of the investigation, which has lasted over a year. In a column published on Wednesday, the Tribune's Eric Zorn wrote:

"Day by day, week by week, month by month, what happened here? Who was pursuing justice and the truth and what were they doing? Who were they talking to? With whom were they meeting? What were they trying to figure out for 400 days?"
Alvarez defended the length of time the investigation took, telling reporters she "would never be pressured into making any kind of decision quickly," that she was going to take her time to make sure "we get it right," and that investigating a police officer is "different than one gang member shooting another."

She said she made the decision to charge Van Dyke with murder "several weeks ago, internally," and was not motivated by the separate court ruling to release the video to the public. She said the investigation was sped up to conclude about a month faster than it otherwise would have, but that its conclusions are solid.

"I am very confident with the charges that I have just charged that we will be able to meet our burden and that we have the evidence available to do it," she said.

Alvarez also said she hopes the case will be a small step toward restoring some of the public mistrust in police forces around the country.

"There's a deep distrust in law enforcement," she said. "Clearly this officer went overboard and he abused his authority. Taking a stand today and making a statement to charge this officer is a good sign that we are looking at this, we are concerned about this, and we need to establish a better relationship so that officers who are out there every day get the respect they deserve and in turn respect the communities they serve."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also criticized the delay in the release of the video and investigation, despite Alvarez's assertions that the time taken was appropriate and the family's opposition to the release of the footage.

"While we cannot yet know all the facts of the case, delay and obstruction have prevented justice from being carried out," wrote Preckwinkle in a statement issued to reporters. "I commend Judge Valderamma for demanding the release of the dashcam video. However, I am dismayed that we had to rely on his intervention and that only after his decision was the officer involved charged. There is no doubt the video will be incredibly difficult to view, but it is the only way to move forward."

Proffer in Jason Van Dyke case by DNAinfo Chicago