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Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm this afternoon, nearly four years after he shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and more than two years since the video of the incident was released to the public.
Three years before McDonald, in 2011, 19-year-old Calvin Cross was shot and killed by Chicago police officers in West Pullman. Chicago cops weren't yet mandated to wear body cameras. There were no dashcam recordings of the incident either. Cross was shot three times by officers Macario Chavez, Mohammed Ali, and Matilde Ocampo. He died on the scene.
An investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority found that the officers reported Cross had brandished and fired a gun at them, but the investigation also revealed that the firearm found at the scene was inoperable. Nonetheless, in 2013, IPRA deemed the shooting justified, and all three officers are still on the force. Cross's mother, Dana Cross, feels that her son would have been vindicated had any recordings of the incident been made.
"I feel that justice was served for Laquan," she said. "In my son's case, it's been eight years. I feel that I might have had justice sooner if I had audio or video."
While she applauded the verdict, Cross feels that the trial of Jason Van Dyke doesn't represent a standard of justice but is rather emblematic of a system that's only called to action when it's forced to. Cross's sister, Senetra Cross, shares this view.
"I feel like justice will only be served if it becomes a social media epidemic," she says. "If my brother would have had video footage of everything that happened, it would have been different." Cross feels her brother's case was "swept under the rug."
The Crosses ultimately sued the city for Calvin's death and were awarded a $2 million settlement that's gone into a trust for his son. Today, they're pleased that the McDonald family got to see the killing of their loved one recognized as a criminal act. They only wish it wasn't such an anomaly for police officers who use excessive force to be punished for their wrongdoing.