In October 2014, Laquan McDonald, 17 years old and high on PCP, broke into a series of vehicles in a trucking yard. He then walked into the middle of a busy street, where he proceeded for some distance, followed by two policemen. The usual mantra, “unarmed black teenager,” is not used with respect to McDonald because he was carrying a knife, which he used to slash the tire of a squad car. He refused police officers’ orders to surrender and ultimately was shot by a policemen who arrived later on the scene. If you watch the dash cam video that was released a day or two ago, the shooting appears to be unnecessary, despite McDonald’s irrational and antisocial conduct. The officer who shot McDonald has been indicted for murder. This may be one of the very rare cases where it is appropriate to prosecute a police officer.
The Laquan McDonald case has led to a series of protests and demonstrations in Chicago. Today a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 and led by luminaries like Jesse Jackson and leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union, closed down North Michigan Avenue. The marchers demanded, among other things, the resignation of police Superintendent Garry McCarthy:
“We want to show them how it’s done in Chicago,” one speaker shouted into a megaphone in front of Water Tower Place. “Let them just feel the empty cash registers.”
Marchers tried to get into the mall as police held them back. Protesters also blocked the entrances to Victoria’s Secret, the Apple store, Neiman Marcus and more than a dozen other retailers while chanting “16 shots and a cover-up,” referring to the number of times McDonald was shot. Some stores along Michigan voluntarily locked their doors as the march went past.
“People listen to economics,” protester Chris Lewis said as he joined others blocking the door to the Ralph Lauren store.
If Laquan McDonald is Chicago’s most famous murder victim–assuming his shooting was murder–Tyshawn Lee is the city’s second best-known victim. Lee, nine years old, was lured into an alley by gang members and killed, reportedly because his father was a member of a rival gang. Tyshawn Lee’s murder has prompted a good deal of outrage and soul-searching in Chicago, but nothing like the marches and demonstrations protesting the death of Laquan McDonald.
Today Superintendent McCarthy announced that gang member Corey Morgan has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tyshawn Lee. McCarthy said that the police are pursuing several additional defendants.
In 2012, there were 503 homicides in Chicago, the most in any American city. In 2014 there were 411; Laquan McDonald was one of them. The large majority of Chicago’s homicide victims are black, as are the vast majority of perpetrators. Police shootings, in contrast, are rare and nearly always justified. “Victims” of police shootings are almost always high, committing a crime, and/or attacking a police officer.
And yet, it is the rare case, the odd exception to the rule, that gains political traction. The Left’s relentless focus on police misconduct, real or alleged, has the effect–perhaps intended–of deflecting attention from real, much more significant but also more intractable, problems.