The Red Record Laquan McDonald
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”-Ida B Wells
I live in Chicago, and for many years I had to drive back and forth on the Dan Ryan Expressway. If you are familiar with the City then you know that from the expressway there used to be a building, a school maybe, I am not sure what it was because I never took the time to find out, but it had the name Ida B. Wells on it. This blog is about truth, so, I’m not going to lie when I tell you that I thought it was another building with the name of a white woman on it. I was in school and working and taking care of my family, so I kept putting off looking up her name. I remember being at the Harold Washington library one day looking at some microfiche of old newspaper articles for a paper that I had to write. I took a break, and I decided to research the name. I was so shocked when I realized that Ida B. Wells a Black woman. I was truly outdone. I remember bad I felt too. Here I was a grown woman with children, Black children and I had no idea who Ida B. Wells was. I remember asking my sister if she knew who she was and she did give me an answer, I remember that she knew that she was a black woman, but she didn’t know the intricacies of who she really was. My sister knew more than me, so what could I say about her not knowing everything? Hell, I had to look the name up. I spent the rest of the day looking up the name. There was no internet then, no Google for me to turn to on my phone or computer. I had to do it the long way. OK, enough about my ignorance.
About a month ago I went to the mailbox and waiting for me was a jury summons. When I opened it I immediately felt bummed out. 26th and California, I read off the paper. I knew that meant that I was probably going to have to be there for a murder case. The building brings back chilling pain filled memories for me, and I loathe going there. It seems like every time I get summoned; they want me to go to 26th and California. Why? There are other courthouses where jurors are needed. I threw the summons on the desk in my office, and every day that I sat down to work, I rolled my eyes at it. Again, I am not going to lie, and I didn’t want to hear a case about a black man shooting another black man. I didn’t want to hear a case about a white man shooting a black man. I didn’t want to hear a case about a black man shooting a white man. I didn’t want to hear shit about any man being shot. I had heard that there once and the dead person was someone I love. All of my anguish and anxiety changed the night before I was supposed to be in court.
I was watching the news folding clothes getting ready for bed, and I heard it. The news anchor said that jury selection for the Jason Van Dyke trial was set to start tomorrow at the Leighton Courthouse. My mouth fell open! I dropped what I was doing and went into my office and picked up the summons. I had to check the date. Was this right? Hell yes. My stomach got sour. For a month I had been giving the summons dirty looks wondering what I was going to have to do to get out of serving! Here it was a case that I was interested in and I was going to be part of it. I was angry and excited. Sixteen shots and a cover-up. Chicago had been put on full blast because of this shooting. A cop pulls up and is not the first officer on the scene, but he draws his gun, and as the suspect, Laquan McDonald starts walking away from the semi-circle of officers that have enclosed him, VanDyke shots him. McDonald spins around and then falls to the ground. The tape shows shots continuing to be fired into the young man on the ground, one after the other. The officer would claim that he was in fear for his life. Chicago police would take a year to release the video, and the States Attorney would take even longer to indict the officer. I have said it before, and I will repeat it. Sometimes what you see is not what you see. We know from the medical examiner that McDonald was shot sixteen times. That is a fact. We know that the first shot on camera was done by an officer who got out of his vehicle and walked towards the suspect and fired. That is what we know. After having the tape for an entire year, it is tough for me to believe that the tape was not doctored. There is an interview with the late great Dick Gregory where he talked about haven suspected the same thing. Mr. Gregory points out that while the body is on the ground being shot into we never see it move. We only see smoke. My problem with the dashcam is that the car is parked in such a way that we don’t see the officer get out of the vehicle at all. The shooting is recorded from another vehicle and another angle.
I wanted now to be on that jury. I wanted to hear and to see everything about this case. I wanted to put the pieces together. I wanted the light of truth to be turned upon this case. I wanted to know and to see what fear there was for a man who has been highly trained to serve and to protect the people of the city that I have called home for forty-eight years. I had to know what this young man possessed other than the color of his skin that was freighting to this one officer but not to the others that were on the scene who never even drew their weapons. No, my mind was not made up. My mind was swarming with questions, and my heart was hoping for answers.
I wouldn’t get the chance to serve on the jury because all of the jurors had been selected before my second scheduled appearance. I knew his name, Laquan McDonald. I wanted to watch this man, this officer who had been sworn to serve and to protect to see his expression every time his name was spoken. I wanted to see if any of the officers mandated training would be present or if there would be fear when Laquan McDonald’s name is called. I wanted to understand that level of fear in a trained professional who was up against a knife when he had a gun. I wanted for once to get answers.
Albeit ashamed and disgustingly horrid, the pages of “The Red Record” are not complete. There are still names to be recorded, and questions left unanswered.