Newswire:  Indictments and trials finally come in police shootings of Blacks, minorities

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent @StacyBrownMedia

Amber Geiger and Botham Jean

Recent indictments and convictions suggest a swinging pendulum, and at least some cracks in the “Blue Wall” that all too often conspires to hide details and protect officers guilty of unjust shootings of African Americans and others. Prosecutors in Chicago have won an indictment, alleging that three Windy City police officers conspired to protect a fellow officer after he fatally shot a Black teenager, Laquand McDonald, in 2014. The officers did so in spite of available videotaped evidence of the shooting, prosecutors said. McDonald, who was 17, was armed with a knife when he was shot 16 times. In Dallas, Texas, an officer was indicted last week on murder charges, nearly three months after she shot and killed an unarmed Black man whose apartment she said she entered by mistake, believing it to be her own. Also, in the last week, four Missouri police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury in connection with the assault of a fellow officer who was working undercover. Officers Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Myers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, are accused of beating the undercover officer with a riot baton and tampering with witnesses to cover up the incident. Myers was also charged with destroying evidence and Officer Bailey Colletta was indicted on a charge of providing false statements to a federal grand jury in connection with the incident. According to CNN, the indictment details text messages between Myers and Boone in which they talk about how much fun it will be to beat “the hell out of these s**theads once the sun goes down and no one can tell us” apart. In Chicago, prosecutor Patricia Brown Holmes said in her opening statement that defendants David March, Joseph Walsh and Thomas Gaffney offered accounts of the deadly incident that conflicted with the video evidence. The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. The bench trial is expected to run into next week, according to Reuters. Earlier, a jury found former Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is white, guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting of McDonald. What all of trials instances shares in common beyond the fact that officers are involved, and face prosecution, is that the perpetrators were white officers and the victims are all black males, and with the exception of McDonald, were unarmed when they were injured or killed. “For all the sacrifices and headaches of covering the murder trial of Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke, it was worth it. Finally seeing a police officer led out of the courtroom left me speechless,” said Erick Johnson, who covered that trial for the Chicago Crusader. “Dressed in a black suit, he looked as if he was going to his own funeral. Only I, and a handful of Black clergy and activists in the courtroom were not mourning,” Johnson said, noting that “Silently, we were rejoicing.” The conviction, which led to Van Dyke being marched out of the court in handcuffs, was a day many Blacks in Chicago never thought they would see, said Johnson, who sat in the front row reserved for media and just yards away from Van Dyke. “A white police officer found guilty of killing Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, and locked up immediately after his historic conviction. For Black Chicago, it was the trial of the century, a moment they had been waiting for a long time,” he said. “For this Black journalist, it was history unfolding before my very eyes. It was a story that changed Chicago forever and the climatic ending was about to take place in courtroom 500.” Meanwhile in Dallas, Amber Guyger told fellow officers that she opened fire when Botham Jean appeared in the darkness. Jean, a 26-year-old native of the Caribbean island nation of St. Lucia, attended college in Arkansas and had been working in Dallas for accounting and consulting firm PwC. Jean’s relatives joined the district attorney for the announcement of murder charges against the disgraced officer. “I truly believe that she inflicted tremendous evil on my son,” Jean’s mother, Allison said after the announcement of the charges, according to ABC News. “He didn’t deserve it. He was seated in his own apartment.” Guyger was arrested on a manslaughter charge three days after the Sept. 6 shooting, prompting criticism that the original charge was too lenient. But Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said at the time that the grand jury could upgrade the charge, which it did last week. “When you look at the facts of this case, we thought that it was murder all along,” Johnson said. After finishing her shift, Guyger told investigators, she returned home in uniform and parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage, rather than the third floor, where her unit was located, according to an affidavit prepared by the Texas Rangers. She said she got to what she thought was her apartment — Jean’s was directly above hers — and found the door ajar. She opened it to find a figure standing in the darkness. She said she pulled her gun and fired twice after the person ignored her commands. “The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for decades has chronicled racially-motivated police murders and brutality against Black America,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. “The recent indictments and sentencing of perpetrator police officers across the nation is long overdue. The NNPA will continue to demand an end to these systematic deadly actions and policies,” Chavis said. An analysis by the Associated Press also marked the latest developments in the national conversation on issues of law enforcement and race. A slew of law enforcement officers have faced charges for the shooting deaths of Black people. They include Guyger, Van Dyke, Stockley, and Robert Bates, a white Tulsa, Oklahoma, volunteer sheriff’s deputy who was sentenced in 2016 to four years in prison for second-degree manslaughter in the April 2015 death of Eric Harris, 44, who was unarmed and restrained.

Newswire : White Chicago cop convicted of shooting to death, Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager, shooting was captured on police dash cam video

 By Frederick H. Lowe, BlackmansStreet.Today


 Laquan McDonald

Last week, a jury today found Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The shooting was captured on police dashcam video and showed that police and city officials initially engaged in a coverup. Van Dyke sat motionless as the jury fore person repeated “guilty” 16 times for aggravated battery, and once for second-degree murder. The jury found him not guilty of official misconduct and first-degree murder. Before the jury issued its verdict, Leighton Criminal Court Building employees and employees of businesses in downtown Chicago were told to go home early should trouble erupt if the jury found Van Dyke not guilty. CLTV in Chicago televised the entire trial. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as he lay on the ground, posing no threat to him. McDonald was carrying a pocket knife, but the other police officers on the scene did not pull out their guns because they did not consider the teenager a threat. The deadly shooting occurred on October 20, 2014. Van Dyke whispered to his lawyer, Dan Herbert, after the jury completed reading the verdict and left the courtroom. Herbert patted his client on the shoulder. Van Dyke then stood up with his hands behind his back as though he had been handcuffed. He hadn’t been. He walked out of the courtroom flanked and followed by Cook County Sheriff’s Deputies. Outside the courthouse, a small crowd chanted “Justice for Laquan.” Some members of the crowd carried placards that read, “Black Panther Party” and “Stop Killings by Racist Cops.” Motorists driving by the criminal court’s building honked their car horns to show their support for the verdict. Otherwise, both the crowd and courtroom relatively quiet. Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who attended at least one of the court sessions, said “a measure of justice has been rendered.” Others said they hoped the jury would have found Van Dyke, 40, guilty of first-degree murder. Cook County, Illinois, prosecutors charged Van Dyke with murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct. Van Dyke is the first on-duty police officer in 40 years to be charged with murder and convicted. Initially, Van Dyke claimed McDonald threatened him and other police officers with a pocket knife, but the case took a dramatic turn when a freelance journalist and a community activist learned of the video that showed the entire shooting. An unnamed whistle-blower told the two about the video. The police dash-cam video showed that McDonald walking away from Van Dyke when he shot him. The repercussions from the deadly shooting claimed the career of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who unexpectedly announced last month that he would not seek a third four-year term. Mayor Emanuel lost support among Chicago’s black voters when his office withheld the dash-cam video, leading to allegations of a coverup. Before the video’s release, police ruled the shooting was justified. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote a letter, telling the police department it could not withhold the video, On November 19, 2015, Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama ordered the video to be released to the public no later than November 25, 2015. The city did not appeal the judge’s decision. On November 24, 2015, after a press conference, the video was released that showed Van Dyke fatally shooting McDonald as he walked away. The video sparked a series of major demonstrations throughout the city, including along posh North Michigan Avenue, with protestors chanting “16 shots and a coverup.” The video’s release also claimed the career of Cook County States’ Attorney Anita Alvarez who supported withholding the video. Alvarez lost her bid for re-election in March 2016 to Kim Foxx, who became the first black woman elected Cook County State’s Attorney. Alavrez won only 26 percent of the vote. Mayor Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy, who stripped Van Dyke of his police powers, but was prevented from firing him because of the city’s contract with the police union. Van Dyke is no longer a police officer. McCarthy is now a candidate for Chicago mayor. The trial lasted three weeks. The 12-person jury deliberated five hours Thursday and three hours today before reaching a verdict. Van Dyke could be sentenced to life in prison. This is the second recent conviction of a white cop for murdering a black teenager. In August, Roy Oliver, a former officer employed by the Balch Springs Police Department, near Dallas, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury convicted him of murder in the 2017 shooting death of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed passenger in a car.