Photos by Cody Corrall, Madeline Happold and Mikayla Rose Price, 14 East
“We, the jury find the defendant, Jason Van Dyke, guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm for the first shot.” This statement rang clear and weighed heavy as it was repeated 16 times in the courtroom. One count of battery for every bullet that pierced Laquan McDonald on that gruesome night four years ago in October. The long-awaited Van Dyke trial came to a close on Friday, October 5th, as jurors decided that he was guilty for 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, guilty for second degree murder, and not guilty for official misconduct. The judge denied bailed, and Van Dyke walked out of the courtroom emotionless in police custody.
This outcome was not foreseen by anyone. Activists and members of the Chicago community really believed that this trial was going to be another injustice done to the city. This city has not held a police officer accountable for murder while on-duty in almost 50 years. It is a miracle that this case even went to court, and actually challenged if the law enforcement was even valid in the situation.
One of the men responsible for the release of the dashcam video of the incident, William Calloway, spoke to journalists after the verdict was announced. “I know the whole country is looking at Chicago right now, and I just want the country to know, it was only because of God that we got justice.” The justice system isn’t just magically fixed, because one racist cop was held accountable for his actions. Think about how many other people died in the hands of police officers before and after McDonald, who didn’t receive justice. Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling are all individuals who were wronged by this legal system that is supposed to support them. This case is a milestone for Chicago and this country, because it is providing the American people with hope that some things may start changing if we get in the face of the government and the authorities.
As Calloway said, “The buck stops here. The buck stops here in Chicago.” This city is at the forefront for changing how this country treats, stereotypes, and views minorities in the legal system. It’s only possible if people continue to protest and challenge the injustices that keep happening. There is no time for a short attention span now. This can’t be an issue that is important for the next week, then easily forgotten about. To get the changes that everyone wants, there has to be consistency, and dedication which I know is all Chicago has to offer. This isn’t the end, and yes this is cliche, but this is only the beginning.
Kyla Hubbard, Junior, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School