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The [Wednesday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes / Posted on September 18, 2018

"The Chicago police officers clearly do not want to be in court testifying against a colleague accused of murder, with one of them so uncomfortable he couldn't bring himself to point to the man on trial, something witnesses are routinely asked to do," Don Babwin reports for AP.

"But one after another - whether they want to or not - officers at the scene the night of Oct. 20, 2014, when white officer Jason Van Dyke emptied his gun into black teenager Laquan McDonald are being called to testify, as prosecutors seek to chip away at the 'blue wall of silence' long associated with the city's police force and other law enforcement agencies across the country."

This is a remarkable report, reflecting the remarkable opening of the Van Dyke trial this week.

Consider that lead: One of the officers (Joseph McElligott) was so uncomfortable testifying to the facts of what happened that night that he refused to even identify his colleague sitting at the defendant's table. I'm willing to bet that officer has never before refused to identify a defendant.

What happens when it's the authorities themselves who refuse to cooperate with the authorities when it comes to solving a crime?

McElligott nonetheless did no favors to Van Dyke in the testimony prosecutors were able to elicit from him. From the Tribune:

McElligott, testifying in uniform and appearing nervous on the stand, said he got out of the squad car and drew his gun after McDonald displayed a knife. The officer said he was about 10 feet away from McDonald at that point but backed up to keep more of a distance from him. He stayed about 15 feet away as he continued to follow McDonald on foot for blocks while his partner drove their squad car beside him.

They were waiting for other officers to show up with a Taser, he said.

McDonald occasionally turned around to display the knife at his side, the officer said, but he never felt he or his partner was threatened.

When his partner twice tried to cut off McDonald from going farther, the teen stabbed the tire and scraped the windshield, McElligott said.

McDonald then began to run, and other responding squad cars cut off McElligott from McDonald.

Shortly afterward, McElligott heard at least 10 gunshots in succession. As he got closer, he saw McDonald lying in the street and Van Dyke nearby with his gun still in his hand.

"He was looking like in shock," McElligott said.

McElligott confirmed that at no point during the pursuit did he fire his weapon at McDonald.

"We were trying to buy time to have a Taser. He didn't make any direct movement at me, and I felt like my partner was protected for the most part inside the vehicle," McElligott testified. "It was kind of like organized chaos . . . We were just trying to be patient."

McElligott didn't feel threatened. He didn't feel like his partner was threatened - nor, presumably, any other officer at the scene before Van Dyke showed up. They were being patient, waiting for another officer to arrive with a Taser, presumably to take McDonald into custody without killing him. The police were being patient. Here's the heartbreak:


While the officers already on the scene waited patiently - textbook-perfect policing - Van Dyke opened fire on McDonald just six seconds after rushing upon the scene.

"McDonald was knocked to the street within 1.6 seconds of the shooting, but Van Dyke fired for an additional 12.5 seconds until his gun was emptied," the Tribune reports.

[Van Dyke's lawyer, Daniel] Herbert, meanwhile, maintained that an average officer can fire five or six times in just a single second. Van Dyke fired many of the shots before even realizing McDonald had fallen to the street, he told jurors.

Herbert said Van Dyke paused to reassess after firing 14 of the 16 shots.

"He didn't know if they were lethal gunshots. He didn't know if Laquan McDonald had the ability to get back up and attack him," he said. "McDonald holds on to his knife the whole time he's on the ground. Despite being shot 14 times, he starts making movements."

Van Dyke paused to reassess after 14 shots, then fired two more and started to reload. He wasn't through. He only stopped after 16 shots because his partner, Joseph Walsh, told him to.

Walsh never came close to firing a shot on his own - nor did any other officer on the scene. None of them, making their own assessments, felt threatened enough to fire a single shot.


"None of the officers has criticized Van Dyke in testimony over the first two days of his trial, but each has bolstered the contention by prosecutors that what Van Dyke did was 'completely unnecessary,'" the AP's Babwin reports.

In fact, the case against Van Dyke - what a jury might decide notwithstanding - is so strong that officers trying to offer sympathetic testimony failed miserably.

Walsh, who is no longer on the force, acknowledged Tuesday that he "could have" fired, before answering, "Yes," to the question of whether he chose not to.

But he also defended his partner's actions, saying he was "confident officer Van Dyke took necessary action to save himself and myself."

So Walsh didn't feel threatened enough to save his own life, but says Van Dyke was justified in feeling threatened for him.

Walsh's testimony may fairly fall into the genre known as "testilying."

From that AP report:

[Walsh] maintained that he saw McDonald raise his right arm to swing it "in our direction," even though video of the shooting that played as he spoke doesn't show that.

Thank you, Don Babwin, for not merely passing along testimony unquestioningly but vetting it in real time by reporting what you - and the jury - saw with your own eyes.


Clearly, without the video, the one that Rahm Emanuel and Garry McCarthy tried to keep under wraps, we wouldn't be here.

To Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor who is now a defense attorney in Chicago, the blue wall of silence isn't weakening so much as video evidence is revealing the truth. He points out that some officers are testifying only because they would otherwise be held in contempt of court. He sees police using video as key - not because it will make officers reluctant to lie to cover for their fellow officers but because it renders those lies "irrelevant."

Clearly, to take the matter one step further, the existence of video wasn't enough on its own - it was the release of the video that got us to this point.

"All of those officers had to know there was dashcam video and still they felt safe enough to provide a narrative that wasn't true," the lawyer who freed the video, Matt Topic, told AP.


New on the Beachwood today . . .

Original Warrior
"The National Veterans Art Museum is proud to announce Original Warrior, an exhibit created to explore the complex Native American relationship between warrior and community, warrior and war, and warrior and service."



The Ex-Cub Factor
Including Tony Campana and the Chicago A's.

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 10.18.50 AM.png


Yes To Vouchers - For After-School Programs
"Students' social and economic needs don't end in the afternoon, and neither should the safety net that public schools provide."




Question about driving without a catalytic converter from r/chicago





De Los √Āngeles a Chicago: Trabajadores de McDonald's protestan contra el acoso sexual



Female Journalists Face Relentless Abuse.


A sampling.




The Beachwood Tronc Line: Have some decency.


MUSIC - Christgau Loves Chicago Neonatologist.
TV - Amazon & The Way Of The World.
POLITICS - Yes On Vouchers For After-School Programs.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - Writers Under Surveillance.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Original Warrior.

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