Illinois States Attorney Alvarez Has Some Explaining to Do

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, file photo, a protester holds a sign as people rally for 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Chicago Police Department Officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. McDonald, whose name demonstrators are shouting as they march the streets and plan to shut down the city’s glitziest shopping corridor on Friday, lived a troubled life full of disadvantages and at least one previous brush with the law. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)
Chicago protestor, holds a sign as people during rally rally for 17-year-old La Quan McDonald   photo credit: Triq

Alvarez Has Some Explaining      to Do

Chicago protesters immediately took to the streets peaceably after the release of the Dashcam showing  Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shoot down  17 year old LaQuan McDonald. The protesters have several goals that they’d like to see come out of their very vocal protest. 

One of the demands by the protesters is the resignation of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who they say tried to cover up last year’s police killing of LaQuan McDonald.

Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez defended herself and Mayor Rahm Emanuel Tuesday after critics slammed both of them for delays in filing charges against a Chicago police officer who fatally shot a teenager more than a year ago.

Alvarez, who faces a tough primary election in March, was criticized by her opponents , among law officials and constituents, for the timing of the charges against the officer and the release of the dash-cam video.

The States Attorney  said the FBI contacted the Cook County state’s attorney’s office in November 2014, a few weeks after the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and the two offices began working together on the case in December.

“From that time on, we were engaged in an active joint ongoing criminal investigation at both the state and the federal levels,” Alvarez said in a press conference Tuesday. “The public needs to know that while it would seem to some that the 12 months of investigation with our federal partners has taken too long, investigations of police shootings and misconduct are highly complex matters that carry with them very unique legal issues that must be fully examined and taken into consideration.”

But the public’s not buying it. They know that there was more to it than what is being said. Mostly the concerns are that the choice to hold off revealing the video  was more about politics than it was about leaglese or the interest of the investigation.  Some even think that the 5 million dollar settlement that went to the “family,’ of LaQuand were bought off to be non assertive about the investigation–to just go away and let them manage it, including the press.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, was charged Tuesday morning with first-degree murder for the October 2014 shooting that left McDonald dead. The charges were announced ahead of the anticipated release of the dash-cam video showing the shooting.

It is reportedly the first time a Chicago officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an off-duty shooting in nearly 35 years.

The release of the dash-cam video, which Alvarez described as “graphic,” “violent” and “chilling,” was a bone of contention throughout the investigation as activists called for its release while officials blocked the release.

And there lies the real issue.  Alvarez knew of its content and with that could have pressed charges if not immediately after LaQuan’s murder, certainly sooner than 400 days later. Had she brought up charges against Van Dyke at least she would have appeared as having some interest in justice to the Black community. Too many times has it witnessed her betrayal and so there is no trust in her effort  to pursue justice where Blacks are concerned.

Last week, Mayor Emanuel stood up against the Illinois attorney general’s office after they asked police to release the footage. The mayor said it would be premature to release the video because of the ongoing FBI investigation.

Emanuel faced backlash from critics for his comment, but Alvarez defended him Tuesday, saying his plea to keep the video away from the public eye, “was in the best interest of the investigation.”

All this leaves Alvarez wide open for major criticism. She is under the scrutiny of the Black community who will not be lenient come the March 2016 election. Their memory will not wane.  Alvarez’s opponents in the upcoming March primary election for her state’s attorney’s seat are taking full advantage of her weakness and were among those who criticized her for the delays in filing charges and releasing the video.

Kim Foxx, a former prosecutor, released a statement after Van Dyke was charged Tuesday, saying the delays in pressing charges were a “heinous disservice” to McDonald’s family and the criminal justice system as a whole.

“By waiting so long to press charges in this case, State’s Attorney Alvarez has done the McDonald family and the entire criminal justice system a heinous disservice,” Foxx said. “She waited until her hand was forced by intense political and media pressure surrounding the release of this painful video. She waited even after City Hall was prepared to pay the McDonald family $5 million in damages.”

Foxx also added that the delays created more tension between Chicago communities and the Chicago Police Department, making it more difficult for officers to do their jobs. 

Donna More, also  former prosecutor who is looking to take Alvarez’ seat, also posted a statement to Facebook after Van Dyke was charged questioning why the charges didn’t come earlier.

“When it was announced that the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office would finally pursue charges against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who maliciously cut short the life of Laquan McDonald in October 2014,” More said. “While I take some solace in the fact that some action was finally taken, why has it taken Anita Alvarez and the State’s Attorney’s office 13 months to indict? The McDonald family deserved better and the residents of Cook County deserve more.”

Alvarez said the reason it took so long is because investigations into police shootings and misconduct are “massive and labor intensive” and can take up to 20 months. She also added that they wanted to make sure they were following all the rules so the indictment would not be dismissed due to tainted evidence.

Though this may be true, some action could have been taken. At least Officer Jason Van Dyke should have been placed on leave. And even now, she has charged Van Dyke with First degree murder which will be hard to prove. So the Black community wants to know has Alvarez thrown us under the bus again?

“At the end of the day, I’d rather take my time and get it right than rush to judgments and get it wrong,” Alvarez said.

The voters will determine in march whether or not she will feel that her choice was the right one March 1–the day after the election.


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