Murder trial of Chicago police officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald begins with jury selection, protest

A murder trial began for a police officer who shot a Chicago teenager in 2014.

The murder trial of a white Chicago police officer began Wednesday with jury selection as protesters outside the courthouse chanted the name of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old African-American boy the officer shot 16 times in a line-of-duty confrontation.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, 40, entered the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago wearing a bulletproof vest and surrounded by his lawyers, supporters and heavily armed guards.

A pool of potential jurors seated in the courtroom was read the 23-count indictment against Van Dyke, which includes first-degree murder, multiple charges of aggravated battery and one count official misconduct.

The would-be jurors were asked to fill out a questionnaire. The questions asked of the jury candidates were not disclosed, but typically include questions about a potential juror's background, if they have ever been a victim of crime and whether they believe they can be fair.

Eight of McDonald's relatives were allowed inside the courtroom to watch the proceedings after initially being barred from entering by sheriff's deputies.

The Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald's great-uncle and a church pastor in Chicago, said a "miscommunication" between the office of the Cook County State's Attorney and the Cook County Sheriff's Office led to family members being initially kept out of the courtroom.

"After some negotiations with the sheriff's office, we were able to get, I think, eight family members in the courtroom," said Hunter, who did not explain what the miscommunication was.

Hunter, who is the designated spokesman for the McDonald family, said he was not allowed into the courtroom.

"Today, for the family it feels like the end of a long journey in so many ways, but yet we know that we have a long way to go," he told reporters in the lobby of the courthouse. "We are in no way claiming a victory. Justice is what we're looking for and we know that is a process."

Outside the courthouse, a couple hundred people demonstrated, holding signs reading "Justice for Laquan." Some of the protesters held a banner reading, "Take on hate."

The protesters shouted McDonald's name and chanted "16 shots and a cover-up," an apparent reference to the numbers of times McDonald was shot and the indictment of three officers on felony charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to prevent or shape the independent criminal investigation into McDonald's shooting.

On Tuesday, Hunter held a press conference asking protesters to remain peaceful.

"We don't want any violence before, during and after the verdict in this trial," Hunter said.

McDonald was shot to death on Oct. 20, 2014, after officers spotted him walking down a street holding a knife. Van Dyke responded to the scene after hearing radio dispatch calls of the incident.

More than a year after the shooting, the Chicago Police Department released a police dashcam video showing Van Dyke opening fire on McDonald six seconds after he exited his patrol car as the teenager appeared to be walking away from him.

In an audio-recorded interview with the Chicago Tribune last week, Van Dyke said it was the first time he had fired his gun in the line of duty during his more than 12 years as a member of the Chicago Police Department.

"It's something you try to mentally prepare yourself for just in case. ... You don't ever want to shoot your gun," Van Dyke said. "It doesn't matter if it's to put down a stray animal or something like that. Nobody wants to shoot their gun. I never would have fired my gun if I didn't think my life was in jeopardy or another citizen's life was. It's something you have to live with forever."