In the graphic video seen across the country Tuesday, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke levels his gun toward Laquan McDonald, an African American teen carrying a knife and veering away from the officer. Van Dyke shoots. McDonald spins, then falls to the ground as Van Dyke continues to fire every bullet in his clip — 16 shots in all.
The officer was charged Tuesday with first degree murder in the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting, which prosecutors say was an “improper use of deadly force.” That night protesters in Chicago streamed through downtown toward police department headquarters, chanting “16 shots.”
Van Dyke, a white 14-year veteran of Chicago’s police force, has been accused of misconduct 17 times before, according to data from the University of Chicago and the journalism non-profit Invisible Institute. The database, published less than a week before the announcement that Van Dyke would be prosecuted, details tens of thousands of complaints against Chicago police officers that weren’t previously made public. Fewer than five percent of the allegations resulted in disciplinary actions for the officers; none of the 18 complaints against Van Dyke led to a penalty.