Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke listens at right during the second day of his murder trial for the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, if a video image of McDonald’s body in the street is shown in the court at the Leighton criminal court Building in Chicago. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)
CHICAGO – Chicago police officers clearly do not want to be in court to testify against a colleague accused of murder, with one of them so uncomfortable he couldn’t bring himself to aim at the man on trial, something which witnesses are regularly asked to do.
But one after the other — whether they want to or not — officers at the scene the night of Oct. 20, 2014, when the white officer Jason Van Dijk emptied his pistol in black teen Laquan McDonald are called to testify, prosecutors seek to chip away at the “blue wall of silence” long associated with the city, the police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
Testimony was expected to resume Wednesday.
None of the officers has criticised Van Dijk in his testimony about the first two days of his trial, but each has strengthened the assertion by officers of justice, that what Dike did was “not necessary.” Van Dijk’s lawyers say that he feared for his life and acted according to his training.
Witnesses in Van Dijk’s murder trial have included his partner that night, Joseph Walsh, one of the three officers indicted on charges that they conspired to cover up what happened on the protecting Dike. While video released more than a year after the recording shows McDonald veering away from the officers, Van Dijk and others on the scene initially said the 17-year-old had turned at them with a knife.
Walsh, who is no longer on the force, acknowledged Tuesday that he “could have” fired, before they answer “Yes” to the question whether he would rather not. But he defended his partner’s actions, saying he was “trust officer Van Dijk took the necessary measures to save himself and myself.” And he claimed that he saw McDonald raise his right arm to swing in our direction”, although the video of the shooting that played as he spoke. He claimed that he had a different point of view.
Another witness, officer Joseph McElligott, was so reluctant to testify that the prosecutors finally gave up trying to point it out to Van Dijk, after he was asked the routine question of whether he knew the suspect.
According to some experts, the Walsh’s testimony and that of other officials — is a shift in the landscape for a police force that the U.S. Department of Justice in January 2017, described as having a “pervasive cover-up culture.”
“The fact that the officers forced is a big moment,” said Matt Topic, a lawyer who is an ultimately successful legal battle to force the city to release the video of the McDonald shooting in 2015.
Van Dijk is the first Chicago police officer in decades to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct.
Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who is now a lawyer in Chicago, the blue wall of silence is not weakening as much as the video evidence is revealing the truth. He points out that some of the officers testifies only because they would otherwise be held in contempt of court. He sees the police the use of video as key — not because officials are reluctant to lie for their fellow officers, but because it makes those lies “irrelevant.”
“If they refuse to talk, who cares, they have the video,” he said.
Subject agree that the video is of interest in Van Dijk ‘ s the case.
“All the officials had to know there was dashcam video, and yet they felt safe enough to tell a story, that was not true,” he said.
Dora Fontaine, the only officer to challenge statements attributed to her in the police reports about the shooting. They came From Dike was firing 16 bullets in McDonald. Fontaine testified on Monday that she saw the knife in the McDonald’s right hand, but she did not see him raise his arm or to the officers.
Officer McElligott, who also testified Monday, was responding to reports that someone breaking into vehicles in a trucking yard when it is in contact with McDonald.
McElligott said that even after McDonald crossed the band of his squad, he didn’t think it was necessary to fire his weapon. Instead, he and his partner were waiting for an officer with a Taser to use on McDonald.
“We were just trying to be patient,” he told the jury.
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