At a time when police shootings of black youth are becoming sadly commonplace, one incident was so egregious and appalling as to stand out well above the others in its level of bloody horror: the execution of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald of Chicago by an out-of-control policeman.
McDonald was shot by Officer Jason Van Dyke of the Chicago Police Department in October of 2014, yet, through what appears to be a considerable amount of active interference by that police department, we have only recently begun to learn the horrific details of that shooting. Apparently the teen was walking down the street with friends and did have a small knife in his hand. It is unclear whether the knife blade was out or not , but there have been no claims made that he in any way provoked police with the knife.
As Laquan McDonald turned and was walking away from the police (eight or nine uniformed officers in all) one policeman, Jason Van Dyke, opened fire on the youth - dropping him with his first two shots. Van Dyke then proceeded to empty his weapon into the boy on the street with thirteen more shots. When Van Dyke took a break to reload, one of his fellow officers talked him into stopping the assault.
Laquan McDonald died that evening at a local hospital, his body riddled with bullet holes.
There were two video tapes of the incident. One was from the dash cam in the police cruiser, a tape which the police department refused to release to the public for over a year - and a second from a local Burger King. The manager of the Burger King reportedly told a grand jury that police confiscated that video and that it was erased while in the custody of the police.
The city government of Chicago reached a preemptive settlement with McDonald's family (before they ever filed suit) awarding the family five million dollars in damages, a fairly clear indication that city officials realized how damning the case against the police officer was. But Jason Van Dyke, the man who pulled the trigger - again and again and again - did not suffer any negative repercussions for over a year.
Some private individuals, including a reporter, went to court to demand the release of the police dash cam video of the incident. As soon as a judge granted that request, things kicked into high gear. Although no police disciplinary had been (or even has been yet) taken against the offending officer, the state brought a charge of first degree murder against Van Dyke and he was arrested. Bond was set at a million-and-a-half dollars, and the officer managed to make bail earlier this week.
This week there have been protests (and arrests) in the streets of Chicago, and the city's feisty and foul-mouthed mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has tried to toe-dance his way across a minefield of public outrage and pressures from the city's police force. Poor Rahm has been living in a nightmare.
But this morning Mayor Rahm Emanuel finally woke up and smelled the coffee. In a rare bit of political courage the mayor announced that he has fired Chicago's police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, the man Emanuel himself had placed in the job four years earlier.
Chicago is now out five million dollars and one VIP sacrificial goat - and had its holiday shopping interrupted with street protests - but has it learned anything of lasting value? Fate has handed the mayor of Chicago a golden opportunity to begin restructuring and re-educating the city's police department to insure that change is a real possibility. The mayor is also in a position to instigate some re-education of the city's populace as well.
Rahm, its time to roll up your shirtsleeves and get out among your constituents. Make Chicago a safe and nurturing place for all of the people who live there and not just those with influence. Okay, one more cup of coffee - but then get off your ass and make Chicago great again!