VERDICTS IN THE NEWS – FRESNO INJURY LAW BLOG
Located less the two miles from Midway Airport, the Chicago Lawn neighborhood represents one of 77 community areas geographically defined within the boundaries of the third largest city in the United States. The rapidly changing neighborhood sits between two bustling thoroughfares, interstates 55 and 90. Locals refer to Chicago Lawn as “Marquette Park” in honor of the municipal park that is the cultural and natural main attraction of the community.
Racial demographic changes have dramatically altered the economic base of Chicago Lawn. During the 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a massive demonstration to promote open housing for every citizen living in the embattled community. King’s march paved the way for decades of racial unrest that boiled under the surface of a neighborhood that also faced a violent reaction to the integration of Gage Park High School. Fear of diminished housing values and the disconnection of ethnic bonds enjoyed by the Lithuanian community sowed the seeds of racial discord that boiled over on October 20, 2014.
Chicago Police Officer Found Guilty – “The Incident”
With trees turning bare and signs of frost clinging to fading grass blades, October 20, 2014 started the same way it usually does on the southwest side of Chicago. At 9:00 pm, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke clocked in for the graveyard shift at the Chicago Lawn District headquarters. As he and his partner departed Chicago Midway Airport shortly after 9:30 pm, Van Dyke responded to a 911 call that reported a suspect was breaking into pickup trucks parked at 41st Street and Kildare Avenue.
Officer Van Dyke and 17-year Laquan McDonald did know each other, but their lives violently intersected at the corner of 40th Street and Pulaski Road, when officer Van Dyke unholstered his police issued revolver and shot McDonald 16 times. A little more than one year passed before Van Dyke became the first Chicago police officer to be indicted on a murder charge for an on-duty shooting.
An emotionally charge trial from day one, the Van Dyke proceedings captured the attention of Americans, as well as racial equality advocates worldwide. Defense counsel presented evidence that Van Dyke defended himself from a knife-wielding McDonald, with the knife introduced into evidence early in the trial. The prosecution countered with the claim that the 16 shots fired by Van Dyke were excessive and unnecessary.