ICOY’s Statement on Laquan McDonald Murder Trial
We have held our breath awaiting the jury’s verdict in the Laquan McDonald murder trial and can now breathe easier that a conviction has been secured. Justice has been done. But the shooting death of an unarmed 17-year-old African-American at the hands of a Chicago Police officer is a painful reminder of the continued systemic police violence against our youth of color not only in the city of Chicago but across our state and nation. McDonald has been painted by the defense team as a menace, and defendant Jason Van Dyke did not even use McDonald’s name throughout his testimony but rather described him as a black male wearing a hoodie. He was much more than a physical description. The death of McDonald should give us pause and force us to reflect on who he was and what we can do to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
McDonald was born to a 15-year-old teen who struggled with substance use disorder and a father who was largely absent and incarcerated. He was first placed in foster care at age three and shuffled back and forth between different relative’s homes and been in contact with the justice system 26 times from the age of 14. However, school officials and relatives testified to witnessing McDonald turning his life around by working with a mentor and attending an alternative school in the months leading to his death. McDonald endured significant trauma at a very early age and deserved to have the support and resources that would put him on a positive path and help him to succeed.
Our coalition of youth service providers work with at-risk children and youth every day, but many young people slip through the cracks because we lack the infrastructure to support families in need, especially children and youth of color who are at suspended, arrested and funneled into the child welfare and juvenile justice systems at an alarmingly higher rate than their white peers. Let us turn this tragedy into an opportunity to address systemic racism and generational trauma by investing in education, training and services that are culturally responsive so that we can start the healing process and move forward in the right direction.