Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder, and rightfully so. His use of deadly force was clearly not justified. Anyone who's been in law enforcement for any amount of time knows that. Those who haven't, well, here you go.
Mr. Van Dyke blatantly violated Chicago PD's own use of force policy. The CPD's criteria for the employment of deadly force requires that the assailant display "actions" that "will likely cause death or serious physical injury."
Seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald, as evidenced by the dash-cam video released (by judge's order) by the CPD, was unjustly killed.
Typically, three factors must be in place for someone to use deadly force:
- To have ABILITY, someone must have the power/strength to kill or cripple someone. Laquan McDonald likely met that criterion. He was young, mobile, and likely pretty strong at 17.
- JEOPARDY requires the assailant be acting in a manner that can reasonably be interpreted as the person had the intent to kill or cripple someone. Laquan McDonald very obviously was not acting in that manner.
- OPPORTUNITY an assailant must be capable of immediately employing deadly force. For example, someone with a bat who is 10 feet away from you definitely has the opportunity to do so. He does not have the opportunity if you're on the other side of a 6ft chain link fence. Laquan McDonald had a 3" folding knife, and was, according to some reports, 10ft away from Van Dyke. I suppose McDonald had opportunity to employ deadly force immediately. In this case, it seems a little subjective. You can obviously be killed by a 3" knife, but it would have to be perfectly placed.
In the end, McDonald did not all the criteria. He had the ability, and he arguably had the opportunity, but he did not put anyone's life in jeopardy by walking away from/parallel to the officers in the video. He didn't lunge, he didn't raise up the knife, and he didn't display any intent of attacking anyone.