Cop accused of the killing of Laquan McDonald: I’m not racist
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dijk speaks out before going on trial on charges of first-degree murder in the shooting death of the 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
The Chicago police officer who fired 16 shots death of a 17-year-old teenager armed with a small knife and led to massive protests when a video of the incident was released said Wednesday he was just doing what he was trained to do, and that the charges against him were motivated by politics.
Officer Jason Van Dijk spoke with FOX32 in his first television interview in anticipation of his process, which was aimed at him struggling with suicidal thoughts, potential time in prison and fear for his family’s safety.
“I’m very nervous,” he told the station. “I’m petrified at the fact that I can go to prison for the rest of my life for one act that I was trained by the Chicago Police department.”
During the nearly hour-long interview, which were the terms by Van Dijk is a lawyer not to discuss details of the 2014 recordings of the Laquan McDonald, Van Dijk said that he had several encounters with people who have guns or knives, but used his training in de-escalation, instead of strength.
“I never had to fire my gun at an individual, a offender. Never wanted to. No one wants to fire their weapons,” he said.
Officer Jason Van Dijk says that he is “petrified” days before jury selection in his trial is set to begin.
Van Dijk was arrested in November 2015, a year after the shooting and on the day of the video shows him shoot McDonald 16 times, was publicly released. The Chicago Police department has suspended Van Dijk without having to pay, and he is charged with first-degree murder.
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In his first interview with the Chicago Tribune, he described the shooting as the worst day of his career for his lawyer, Daniel Herbert, interrupted not to allow Van Dijk the back of his mind.
“It is clear that my darkest day was the night of the shooting,” he told the Tribune. “Overwhelming amounts of everything at the same time: emotions, adrenaline —”
“Don’t get in a pre-shooting,” Herbert said, according to the paper.
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With jury selection set to begin next week, Van Dijk told FOX32 he is of the opinion that there was political pressure by the then State Attorney Anita Alvarez to charge him hours before the video was released.
“I strongly believe that politics was heavily involved in this since the beginning,” he said, “I would like that the jury knows the facts of the situation that happened… And I would like them to make a decision on the basis of evidence and not on public opinion.”
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The release of the video led to mass protests in Chicago, hundreds gather by the streets in the downtown area and near South Side areas, also outside the police department of the head office. Van Dijk said Wednesday that he believed that people have a “right to protest,” but images of him by some as a racist by some are not true.
“I would say that this is a false story of people who try to confuse fact with their own opinion,” he told FOX32. “Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not racist.”
Van Dijk is of the opinion that the case against him was “influenced” by politics.
After the shooting, Van Dijk said that he went home in a daze, collapsed in the shower, but could not tell his wife what happened, because he doesn’t want them to break off before work.
“Taking someone’s life is not something I take lightly…it is… it is… it is very contradictory with [my] religious beliefs,” he said. “I would never have done if I didn’t think my life or someone else’s life was in danger.”
McDonald’s family, but said the interviews are nothing more than a calculated attempt By Van Dijk lawyers to influence potential jury members in the process.
“If I was his lawyers, I would tell him to say exactly what he said:” McDonald’s uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, told FOX32. “I’m certainly not going to do something, to try and influence everyone. I think that this tour, if nothing else, it is trying to write the story of what a judge should or should not think.”
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Lawyer Jeff Neslund, which represented the McDonald Family in the negotiations for a $5 million settlement with the city, said that Van Dijk is speaking out to try to win over potential jurors before the trial begins.
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“I think it’s a rather transparent attempt here to try to influence the jury pool,” he said. “You go on this publicity tour a week before the process begins. After asking for the confidentiality and the submission of all under seal. I think it’s a little obvious and transparent what the defense is trying to do here.”
It is unclear how the court, which has prohibited the attorneys from discussing the case outside the court, it will respond to the interviews, or how it could influence any decision on a change of venue motion filed by Van Dijk advocaten. The defense team argues that the pretrial publicity has made it impossible for Van Dijk to a fair trial.
Convictions in murder cases against the investigating police officers are extremely rare. Only six non-federal police convicted of murder in such cases — and four of those convictions were set aside — since 2005, according to data compiled by the criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson, and shared with The Associated Press.
Earlier this week, a former Dallas-area police officer was found guilty of murder after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager as the boy left a party with his friends.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Travis Fedschun is a reporter for FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @travfed