A complete guide to the Laquan McDonald shooting and criminal trials

Jason Van Dyke, the on-duty Chicago Police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, was found guilty in the teenager's murder on Oct. 5, 2018. The Sun-Times staff tracked the case in the months leading up to the trial and is tracking a subsequent trial of three officers accused of covering up the incident. This page tracks every day of that trial and features background information in the case.



Oct. 3, 2018

What happened?

After a dramatic day on Tuesday, with Jason Van Dyke taking the stand, the defense rested their case Wednesday morning.

After a brief rebuttal from the prosecutors, the jury was dismissed and told that closing arguments would take place Thursday morning.

In case you missed Van Dyke's testimony, here are five key exchanges.

Follow our live coverage from the courthouse today for up-to-the-minute updates.

Oct. 2, 2018 (Van Dyke takes the stand)

What happened?

Jason Van Dyke took the witness stand after a lunch break Tuesday. His defense is expected to officially rest Wednesday.

"I just kept on looking at the knife and I shot at it, I just wanted him to get rid of that knife." — Jason Van Dyke on the witness stand.
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke testifies in his murder trial Tuesday Oct. 2, 2018, in Chicago, for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke testifies in his murder trial Tuesday Oct. 2, 2018, in Chicago, for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

The full breakdown of Van Dyke's testimony is here.

Before Van Dyke took the stand, Chicago Police Officer William Johnson took the witness stand before a lunch break to identify four items he recovered from Laquan McDonald at Mount Sinai Hospital the night McDonald was shot.

Psychologist Laurence Miller told a prosecutor Tuesday that the “threat” perceived by Officer Jason Van Dyke “emerged and built up over time.”

Gaughan also ordered an apparent member of the media held in contempt Tuesday morning after he caught the person recording testimony.


Van Dyke tearfully testifies about shooting but grapples with inconsistencies

5 key excerpts from Van Dyke’s trial testimony

Newly disclosed statements from Van Dyke carry more punch than his testimony

Oct. 1, 2018

What happened?

Court was adjourned until Tuesday for "difficulties," which Judge Vincent Gaughan later explained stemmed from a juror calling in sick.

Monday afternoon, Chicago activists including William Calloway and Rev. Michael Pfleger, called for a "complete shutdown" of the city if Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is acquitted in the slaying of Laquan McDonald.

Sept. 27, 2018

What happened?

The eighth day of testimony featured a series of rulings on what can and can't be admitted as evidence, including Laquan McDonald’s juvenile records.

Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled with the defense and ordered that records be turned over showing McDonald's history of drug use.

Gaughan also barred the defense from showing jurors a series of police training videos. He also told the defense they can't call a former case worker of McDonald's who knew about an investigation into the teen's uncle. He also barred the defense from telling jurors about drug tests in which McDonald tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.

The defense called an pharmacologist James Thomas O’Donnell to the stand to talk about the effects of PCP. Laquan McDonald had enough PCP in his system to cause hallucinations, delusions, aggression and violence, O'Donnell said.

Nicholas Pappas, a Chicago police officer, also took the stand to explain how the police department teaches how to use deadly force.

What's next?

Court won't be in session until Monday.

Sept. 26, 2018

What happened?

Among the witnesses who took the stand Wednesday was Officer Leticia Velez, who was present on the night of the shooting. She said Laquan McDonald looked “deranged.” “He did not look at us,” Velez said. “He did not look toward our direction. He just kept looking straight ahead.”

The truck driver who summoned police to 41st and Kildare also took the stand. Truck driver Rudy Barrillas said a person who was in a truck "pulled out a knife and wanted to hurt me," through a Spanish-language interpreter.

Yolanda Sayre, an attorney for the Chicago Police Department who trains officers in the police academy, explained the use of force law that is central to Van Dyke's defense.

Jeremy Stayton, the surgeon who operated on McDonald at Mount Sinai Hospital, said the teenager had no vital signs.

Sept. 25, 2018

What happened?

On the sixth day of testimony, the defense presented its own video of the shooting Tuesday. Jurors saw a three-dimensional animated re-creation of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald that purports to show McDonald getting closer to Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the seconds before he was shot.

An animated video portraying Officer Jason Van Dyke and Laquan McDonald is shown Tuesday to the jury during the trial for the shooting death of McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. | Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune pool photo

An animated video portraying Officer Jason Van Dyke and Laquan McDonald is shown Tuesday to the jury during the trial for the shooting death of McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. | Antonio Perez/ Chicago Tribune pool photo

The prosecution picked apart the animation, noting that the video depicts McDonald with a hood on his head and in dark clothing.

Before that video was shown, Dina Randazzo, McDonald’s probation officer, recalled an Aug. 23, 2013, incident in which McDonald was taken into custody after a court hearing. Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan also ruled that the defense could not call to the stand a Chicago police officer who once allegedly crossed paths with Laquan McDonald.

Sept. 24, 2018

What happened?

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s legal team started his defense on Monday with Dr. Shaku Teas, who testified that a shot that tore through the right side of the 17-year-old’s chest and severed his pulmonary artery caused McDonald to die, likely within one to five minutes.

“It is my opinion that this is the one that caused Laquan to die so rapidly,” she said, calling the remaining 15 shots “totally immaterial.”

Presenting Teas' testimony on deadly use of force represents an effort by Van Dyke's defense team to counter the prosecution’s expert witness, who said last week that Van Dyke’s shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 was not justified.

Here's a recap of where things stood when proceedings wrapped for the day on Monday:

Sept. 20, 2018

What happened?

The 10th day of the Van Dyke trial continued today, with the prosecution resting their case around 1:15 p.m.

Earlier in the day, Jose Torres, a witness to the fatal shooting shared what he saw. Torres said McDonald “was trying to walk away . . . He was just trying to get away from them.”

Also taking the stand was Urey Patrick, an ex-FBI agent and veteran, who said that “the risk posed by Mr. McDonald did not rise to the necessity of using deadly force to stop him.”

The jury also heard FBI ballistics expert Scott Patterson, who commented on a series of shooting demonstrations on video.

Court won't be back in session until Monday, when Van Dyke's legal team begins to make their case for him.

Sept. 19, 2018

What happened?

Among Wednesday's witnesses were Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, the chief Cook County medical examiner. Her office did the autopsy on Laquan McDonald.

Cook County Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar took the stand and explained Laquan McDonald’s injuries to jurors. She described all 16 of McDonald's bullet wounds in detail.

After Arunkumar's testimony, prosecutors called FBI expert Mark Messick back to the witness stand. His previous testimony was stricken from the record on grounds that Judge Vincent Gaughan didn't think he was a ballistics expert. Messick was allowed to talk about the enhanced video he prepared of Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting.

Sept. 18, 2018

What happened?

On the second full day of testimony, Van Dyke's partner Joseph Walsh was called to the stand, calling McDonald "aggressive" as he recounted the night of the shooting.

Also called to the stand was witness Xavier Torres, who said McDonald “looked like he was trying to get away from the officers.” Torres said he didn't see the knife in his hand.

Also called to the stand was a Chicago Police evidence technician who identified the 16 bullet casings.

Jurors also saw enhanced versions of the dashcam video prepared by Mark Messick, a member of the FBI’s audio, video and image analysis unit. Judge Vincent Gaughan struck that testimony because "this is not his area of expertise."

Sept. 17, 2018

What happened?

Opening statements in the Jason Van Dyke murder trial began at 10:21 a.m. Monday as the trial that has transfixed Chicago began in earnest.

Jurors heard from two police offers who were at the scene of the shooting. Multiple videos were also shown to the jury.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan finally rejected the defense team's request to move the case out of Cook County.

Sept. 14, 2018

What happened?

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke decided this morning that he will have a jury decide his fate rather than have Judge Vincent Gaughan — a key strategic choice early in the trial.

Van Dyke, charged with the murder of Laquan McDonald in 2014, and his legal team appeared before Gaughan at 9 a.m.

The jury is made up of eight women and four men, along with five alternates.

Van Dyke’s lawyers continue to press the judge for a decision on their request to move the case out of Cook County because he can’t get a fair trial here. His defense argues the huge amount of negative pretrial publicity, combined with protesters outside the courthouse and the fear of riots if he’s acquitted, mean there’s no way he could find impartial jurors.

Here's a recap of where things stood as Day 6 of the trial began:

Sept. 13, 2018

What happened?

An expected decision from Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke over whether to place his fate in the hands of a jury or Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan loomed over jury selection Thursday, but the defense was still undecided as the final jurors were chosen.

By late Thursday morning, the 12th juror had been selected. The jury has four men and eight women.

Here's a recap of where things stood as Day 5 of the trial began:

Sept. 12, 2018

What happened?

Jury selection continued Wednesday in the Jason Van Dyke murder trial as defense attorneys continue to aggressively push to move the case out of Cook County, arguing there's no way the Chicago cop can get a fair trial here.

Here's a recap of where things stood as the trial resumed Wednesday:

Jury selection has progressed at a quicker pace than many expected for such a high-profile case. Five more jurors were selected Wednesday — a black woman, who is the first African-American on the jury, a white man, a white woman and two Latina women, one of who is applying to be a Chicago police officer and wanted to be a cop since she was 12. One of the jurors, a man in his 60s, said he had not even seen the now infamous video of Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 as the teen, armed with a knife, appeared to be walking away from him.

Van Dyke's defense attorneys have filed several motions asking for the trial to be moved, and they could still opt to waive Van Dyke's right to a jury trial and have Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan decide the case alone.

In an unusual argument, Van Dyke's attorneys are claiming that jurors cannot be impartial because they know that if they acquit Van Dyke, the city of Chicago will riot.

Sept. 11, 2018

What happened?

There was no court Tuesday. Jury selection resumes Wednesday.

In lieu of proceedings in the Van Dyke trial, Judge Vincent Gaughan held a memorial ceremony outside the courthouse to mark the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sept. 10, 2018

What happened?

The process of picking a jury to hear evidence in Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke's trial for the murder of Laquan McDonald ramped up Monday.

A group of 20 of the nearly 200 prospective jurors is slated to returned to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for the first time since Wednesday. On that day, potential jurors were given written questionnaires to fill out. Of the first group of 10 summoned in the morning, only eight were in the courthouse by the time jury selection was starting.

Lawyers for both sides spent the last several days poring over the documents, and Monday marked the beginning of one-on-one questioning by Judge Vincent Gaughan.

Here's a look at what happened Monday, a day featuring protests and the selection of five jurors:

Also of note

Van Dyke's lawyer filed a motion to move the trial outside of Cook County.

What's happening tomorrow?

Court will not be in session tomorrow as Judge Gaughan will lead a Sept. 11 remembrance in front of the courthouse on the 17th anniversary of the attack.

Sept. 7 (End of week 1)

What happened?

The first week of the Van Dyke trial was largely uneventful:

There were 190 potential jurors who filled out questionnaires this week.

Jason Van Dyke saw his bail increase by $2,000 because he gave press interviews.

Van Dyke had to be reprocessed through the jail because of the bail increase.

Jason Van Dyke booking photo on Sept. 6, 2018

What happens next week?

The trial is expected to fully go into gear. Potential jurors will come back early next week. Opening arguments are expected to start shortly after.

Sept. 6

What happened today?

Van Dyke faced going back to jail after a possible bond violation for giving interviews to the Chicago Tribune and WFLD, despite a judge's order banning key figures in the case from making public statements. Gaughan ordered that Van Dyke's bail be increased by $2,000.

Also of note

Chicago police officers will be required to file a report every time they point a gun at someone, according to an agreement reached between the city and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and made public Thursday.

Here's an explainer on what consent decrees are.

Sept. 5 (The first day)

What happened today?

The trial officially began today with more drama outside the courthouse than inside the courtroom.

With jury selection drawing from a pool of about 190 people, protesters converged on the Leighton Criminal Court Building Wednesday morning. Jason Van Dyke entered the courthouse about 7:30 a.m.

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, in the tan suit coat, is escorted into the Leighton Criminal Courthouse by a contingency, including FOP President Kevin Graham to his left. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Inside the courtroom, potential jurors will likely spend part of the day filling out questionnaires. Lawyers will review their answers, and the judge won’t begin to question members of the jury pool until Monday.

Demonstrators have a permit to protest on the median walkway outside the courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the trial, though they will have to do so contending with barricades that were set up Tuesday.

Sept. 4 (Day before the trial)

What happened today?

Jury selection begins Wednesday with today being reserved for the last pre-trial hearings.

Over the weekend, Judge Vincent Gaughan said he would hold off on ruling on whether to revoke or raise Van Dyke's bail for allegedly violating the judge’s order barring Van Dyke and others from making public statements.

The week before the trial was set to begin, Van Dyke gave interviews with the Chicago Tribune and WFLD.

Also Monday, the family of Laquan McDonald gathered calling for "complete peace" in connection with the trial.

Before the trial

What to expect during the trial

The trial is set to take place nearly three years after Jason Van Dyke was charged in the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Since the arrest, there have been a number of legal factors that will play a role in how lawyers, the media, witness and others are expected to conduct themselves during the proceedings.

Some factors of note:

Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 5, with a final pre-trial hearing scheduled for Sept. 4

• Judge Vincent Gaughan has not ruled on the defense's request to move the trial outside of Cook County, and won’t make a ruling until after jury selection has started.


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Editor: Steve Warmbir

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About the conspiracy case

The dashcam video