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On Tuesday a white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald pleaded not guilty.  After the court hearing, defense attorney Dan Herbert said Jason Van Dyke wants to tell his side of what happened so he’s not seen “as this cold-blooded killer.”

Herbert added that they haven’t ruled out asking for a change of venue. The case is In Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago where demonstrators have staged marches protesting the shooting and how it’s been handled.

37 year old Van Dyke faces six counts of first-degree murder and one of official misconduct in the death of 17-year-old McDonald. The officer, who wore a dark suit and blue striped tie, appeared in court Tuesday as his lawyer entered the plea on his behalf.

Judge Vincent Gaughan set the next hearing for Jan. 29.  The public has been furious since a dashcam video was released last month showing the veteran officer shooting McDonald 16 times.

The teenager, armed with a knife, was veering away from officers when Van Dyke opened fire.  The footage sparked days of street demonstrations, the forced resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and a broad federal civil rights investigation of the Police Department’s practices and how allegations of officer misconduct are handled.

Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a statement Tuesday that the shootings raise questions about why officers don’t have more options besides using lethal force.The mayor’s office, which had already said some changes would be forthcoming, said in a statement late Tuesday night that Emanuel and Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante would announce Wednesday “a major overhaul” of the policy regarding how officers respond to incidents and the use of force.

The statement also said the police department will also begin to require every officer who “responds to calls for service” to be equipped with a Taser and trained to use it by June 1, 2016.  Van Dyke, who has been free since paying the $150,000 required of his $1.5 million bail, was suspended from the police force without pay after he was charged.

After Tuesday’s hearing, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, called for gavel-to-gavel televised coverage of the trial. He said it would be “in the best interest of fairness and justice in this case.”  Hunter added that he and others think there is a culture within the Cook County criminal justice system and the Chicago Police Department “where police feel comfortable with murdering African-American people.”

 

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