The white Chicago policeman accused of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald says he was doing what he was taught to do and that the case against him shows that prosecutors are giving in to political pressure.
In his first interview since he was arrested, and a few days before the jury selection begins at his trial, agent Jason Van Dyke told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday: "I would never have fired my gun if I had not thought of my life " I was in danger or the life of another citizen was & # 39;
Van Dyke did not discuss any details of the 2014 shooting in the interview that was tightly controlled by his lawyer, including the likely focus of the prosecutors' case: that no other officer shot the teenager and that his written report believed that McDonald would attack him with a knife contradicts what can be seen in the now infamous video dashcam.
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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke accused of murdering a black teenager was thrilled during Tuesday's interview with the Chicago Tribune before the scheduled start of jury selection next week
Van Dyke, 40, a married father of two children, is accused of firing 16 times at Laquan McDonald, 17, in October 2014.
"Of course, I am extremely nervous," said the father of two children. "I could be considering spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job since I was trained as a Chicago police officer."
Van Dyke was arrested in November 2015, a year after the shooting and on the same day the video was published publicly showing he had fired at McDonald 16 times.
McDonald (seen in a screenshot of the video from the dashboard camera) had many PCPs and walked with a knife when he was shot by the officer
The veteran policeman opened fire six seconds after leaving his patrol car and then continued to fire on McDonald's body lying on the ground.
The Chicago Police Department suspended Van Dyke without payment. He has been working as a janitor in the lodge of the Fraternal Order of Chicago to make a living.
The official said he has been at the center of a political storm since the video was released.
"I think there have been many external political pressures," he said. "It seems that politics has been involved with this from the beginning."
Van Dyke lamented that he was being vilified on social media and portrayed unjustly as a racist and happy white policeman.
& # 39; Everyone wants to be part of the hate car. Anyone who knows me, knows me personally, knows … I'm not a racist, "he said." That's a great false narrative … It's just slander.
Van Dyke also noted that on October 10, 2014, it was the first time he fired his service weapon while on duty, after spending more than a dozen years in the police force of some of the most crime-ridden communities in the country. Chicago at night.
This undated autopsy chart provided by the Office of the Medical Examiner of Cook County shows the location of the entry and exit wounds in the body of McDonald & # 39; s
"You never want to shoot your gun," he said. – It does not matter if it's to leave a stray animal or something. Nobody wants to shoot his gun. "
As a practicing Catholic, Van Dyke also spoke about his daily prayers for the McDonald family after the "darkest day" of his career.
The family of McDonald's dismissed the 40-minute Van Dyke interview with the Tribune as nothing more than a legal maneuver designed to influence potential jurors.
Are you praying or are you just saying what you think you want to hear? asked McDonald's great-uncle, the Reverend Marvin Hunter, adding that if he was advising Van Dyke, he would advise him to say exactly what he did. & # 39; They are trying to write a narrative. They are trying to influence the jury. "
It is unclear how the judge, who has barred attorneys from discussing the case outside the courtroom, will react to the interview or how any decision on a motion for change of venue by Van Dyke's attorneys could affect.
The defense team argues that pre-trial publicity has made it impossible for Van Dyke to receive a fair trial.
Van Dyke is photographed arriving in court for a preliminary hearing on August 8 wearing a bulletproof vest over his shirt
Van Dyke expressed concern about the safety of his family and said he was concerned that unrest could arise in Chicago after the verdict on his case was reached.
Earlier this month, he imagined getting to court for a preliminary hearing with a bulletproof vest over his buttoned shirt.
The selection of the jury in the case of Van Dyke is scheduled to begin on September 5.
Defense attorney Dan Herbert is not mentioned in the Tribune story beyond a brief comment to Van Dyke so he does not talk about "any pre-shooting." A spokesman for the special prosecutor, Kane County State Prosecutor Joseph McMahon, rejected a request for comment.
Convictions in cases of murder against police officers in service are rare. A former Dallas area police officer was convicted of murder on Tuesday. Roy Oliver fatally shot an unarmed black teenager while the boy left a party at the Balch Springs house with his friends.