Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office says it is reviewing the legality of the sentence handed down last week to former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald.
“We are going to do a careful review of the record and the law and make a determination based on our review,” Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for the office, said Wednesday afternoon.
Raoul, sworn in as attorney general this month, would not say whether he believes Van Dyke’s punishment is fair.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan last Friday sentenced Van Dyke to 81 months in prison — less than half of what prosecutors had sought. Van Dyke could be released in three years.
Outside the courtroom, Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon said he was “satisfied” with the sentence.
“We achieved our goal of justice and holding Jason Van Dyke accountable for his actions,” McMahon said.
But many police-accountability activists viewed the sentence as a setback.
A jury in October convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for each shot into McDonald.
Some legal experts say the best way to challenge Van Dyke’s sentence would be to seek a “mandamus” order from the Illinois Supreme Court. That court could find Gaughan violated the law by basing the punishment on the second-degree murder count, a Class 1 felony, instead of the battery counts, which carry a more serious designation, Class X.
A spokesman for McMahon on Wednesday said the special prosecutor is “still reviewing” the sentence. The spokesman would not say whether McMahon asked McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, for her view on whether the sentence should be challenged.
McDonald’s great uncle Rev. Marvin Hunter, the family’s spokesman, said “justice was not served” and accused Gaughan of treating Van Dyke as if the crime were a “minor drug offense.”
A staffer in Gaughan’s chambers on Wednesday said the judge declined to comment on the sentencing.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did not answer what she thinks of the sentence or whether she would play a role in challenging it. A consideration for Foxx is her predecessor Anita Alvarez’s recusal of the office from the case after civil-rights groups accused her of pro-police bias.
Locke Bowman, an attorney who led the push for a special prosecutor in the case, said the Supreme Court has authority to toss out Gaughan’s “illegal” ruling that second-degree murder is the greater offense.
“If you turned the tables and if a young African-American man had regrettably fired 16 shots at a Chicago police officer and killed him,” Bowman said, “the judicial system would impose a massively punitive sentence.”
On Thursday, Van Dyke’s attorney slammed Raoul for reviewing the sentence.
“Another politician has chosen to exploit the tragic death of Laquan McDonald for his own political gain,” the attorney, Dan Herbert, said in a statement. “The judge in this case carefully considered the arguments made and issued the correct ruling under the law.”Van Dyke’s defense team says it is exploring its own options for challenging the sentence as well as the conviction.
Van Dyke began shooting McDonald, 17, as the teen carried a knife and walked away from officers on a South Side road in 2014. Many of the 16 shots hit the teen after he had collapsed to the pavement.
A police dashcam video contradicted reports by officers that McDonald was attacking Van Dyke.
Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson last week acquitted three officers of charges they covered up for Van Dyke
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The woman accused of shooting and seriously injuring a man during a Facebook Live video, appeared in court Tuesday afternoon.
Cassandra Damper is currently charged with tampering with evidence after police said she tried to wipe off her hands before testing for gun powder residue.
In court today, Eyewitness News learned that Damper initially lied to police on the scene telling investigators that Holmes held the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
The shooting happened around 2 a.m. on Easter Sunday at the Valero gas station on Almeda and Southmore.
Police say the victim, Devyn Holmes, was inside of a parked car with Damper and another man who were playing with two guns on Facebook Live.
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Terrified employees fled as gunfire rang out at YouTube’s sprawling headquarters in San Bruno, California, on Tuesday, prompting a massive police response and evacuation as victims were transported to nearby hospitals. San Bruno police identified the suspect late Tuesday as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39, who was found dead from what authorities believe is a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said three people were transported to local hospitals with gunshot wounds.
His department said it is working to identify a motive for the shooting. Earlier reports indicated the suspect may have known one of the victims, but police said late Tuesday that “at this time there is no evidence that the shooter knew the victims of this shooting or that individuals were specifically targeted.”
Barberini said police arrived on scene at 12:48 p.m. local time and encountered frantic employees fleeing the building. “It was very chaotic as you can imagine,” he said.
Nasim Najafi Aghdam SAN BRUNO POLICE DEPARTMENT
Responding officers encountered one victim with a gunshot wound toward the front of the building before finding the deceased suspect, Barberini said. Several minutes later, police located two additional victims at an adjacent building.
Barberini later said the suspect used a handgun and there was no further threat to the community.
San Bruno police investigate motive
Police said they are investigating the motive for the shooting, but Aghdam’s videos and website are filled with criticism of YouTube. Sources said she initially asked for one of the male victims by name, and that she used 9mm handgun during the shooting.
Jaclyn Schildkraut, an expert on mass shootings research and assistant professor at the State University of New York (SUNY), told CBS News it was “very uncommon” to see a female suspect carry out this type of shooting.
Women made up of only four percent of mass shooting suspects in the U.S. between 1966 and 2016, Schildkraut said. However, Tuesday’s shooting might not fit the definition of a mass shooting. The Gun Violence Archive defines it as four or more people shot or killed — excluding the shooter.
As a kid in Oakland, Calif., Ryan Coogler hung out at a comic book shop near his school, reading about superheroes who looked nothing like him.
“As I got older, I wanted to find a comic book character that looked like me and not just one that was on the sidelines,” Coogler says. “And I walk in and ask the guy at the desk that day, and say, ‘Hey man, you got any comic books here about black people, you know, like with a black superhero?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, yeah, as a matter of fact, we got this one.'”
That guy handed him a copy of Black Panther. And today, Coogler is the director of the Marvel movie adaptation about T’Challa — the king of fictional African nation Wakanda — who dons a super-science-powered suit to protect his people.
This superhero movie is actually a new challenge for Coogler, who’s only 31 years old. He got a ton of praise for his first film, Fruitvale Station, about an unarmed black man killed by a transit cop in Coogler’s hometown of Oakland. Then, he directed Creed, the latest Rocky movie — and now, Black Panther, which many hope will be a cultural turning point.
And Coogler says he’s feeling the pressure of those expectations. But, he adds, “for me, the pressure’s always been there, ’cause I’m in a career that’s unexpected, in terms of where I’m from and what I look like, you know, how old I am. So I’ll always feel pressure. I’ll always feel like I’m up against odds that are kind of insurmountable and, ‘Man, if I don’t get this right, I might not ever work in this town again.’ But you kind of got to tune that stuff out.”
On travelling to Africa to research the film
For me, it was about this question of “What does it mean to be African?” It was a question I couldn’t answer. When I was taking this project, it was a question I needed to answer about myself, you know, which is the personal connection that I’m talking about. And it’s a question that sounds specific, but it’s actually universal for a lot of reasons. … I mean if you ask yourself, “Now what does it mean to be Ukrainian?” or “What does it mean to be Eurasian?” it’s a deep question, right, if you think about it. It’s not a question you can answer with one word. But it’s a question you can spend your life trying to figure out, and have fun doing it, I truly believe.
On the importance of Black Panther having his own movie
For one, like, this medium of superhero films and this blockbuster medium, it’s just myth-making but on terms that are current. That’s why these movies make a lot money. That’s why people talk about them, you know what I mean, people dress up as them.
You look at any society in any period of time, they had their version of how they did their myth-making. Whether it was vaudeville, whether it was plays, whether it was on the plains of Africa … and it was griots, you know, beating the drum and telling stories. That was their version of myth-making. Right now, it’s these big, huge, large-canvas films that you go see in IMAX, that you go see in 3-D.
And there’s a massive audience — not just of people of color but everybody — who wants to see different perspectives in this myth-making. They want to see something fresh, they want to see something new, but also feels very real. You walk around in this world, and you see people who look like me — all the time. I’m from the Bay Area man, where we’ve got a very successful basketball team right now. The Golden State Warriors run out there, run up and down the court, [and] it’s a bunch of black dudes. But everybody in the stadium — even though it’s in Oakland — there’s very few black people in that stadium. But everybody’s wearing they jerseys and experiencing the emotions that they feel. You know, when Steph Curry hits a shot, it’s a little white kid or a little Asian kid in there that feel like they just made the shot.
On the state of representation in entertainment
I mean, there was a time in sports when black people weren’t allowed to play on professional teams, you know what I mean. You go down the line in every sport, there was a time when it was like a crazy idea to let a black person run out there and put a jersey on. You know, it was a time when professional teams would say, “We won’t make any money if we put a black person out there.” You know, it took that one to happen and then they looked around and was like, “Wait, we’re making more money — we gotta do this more. Oh yeah, people will cheer for a person who doesn’t look like them.” I mean, I know I watched superhero movies and did all the time.
On the creation of Wakanda
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who invented the character and invented Wakanda, they were two Jewish-American artists who were in the States — in New York — and pulling from the things that they were seeing around them to make these stories. I’ve met Stan Lee, and I know that he was tapping into the zeitgeist, purposefully, of what he saw African-Americans and people all over the world going through. He kind of came up with this pulpy concept, and … when you really think about it, man, it is something that’s based on circumstance. Like it’s fiction, that has base in reality. Africa’s a continent that’s known for its resources, you know. It’s very rich in terms of any kind of resource that you can get out of the ground that has value. You’re going to find it in abundance somewhere on that continent, whether it’s oil, whether it’s rubber, whether it’s gems or precious metals.
It led to colonization and exploitation. It led to borders being drawn, not by the people who are from there, you know. And it led to the mental horrors of colonization, which comes with being told that you’re less than, and not worthy of, and losing your language — losing your heritage, and the cousin of colonization, which is a very scary relative of it, is the theft of bodies, is what happened to my ancestors.
That said, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, they were aware of all these things. And they tapped into something when they said “Man, what if that never happened to a place? What if a place had something really cool, had a cool mineral, you know, had a coltan, had a gold, had a diamond and they never were conquered and they found a way to manipulate it, and stay separate from the world and grow and become great?” And … found a way to maintain that, what kind of conflict would that bring about? You know, it was Afro-futurism. It was all these great things that amazing writers have built on, and built on, and built on, in the 60 years since they did that.
On filming Black Panther from the perspective of Wakandans
I think perspective is everything — perspective and proximity to whose story you’re watching, it’s one of the gifts that cinema has. Like for me, I never left the country until I made a film that got into a festival that was outside the country. How I used to travel was through watching movies, and I like the movies that put me right on the ground. I like City Of God, I like Un Prophete, you know, these films that put you like right in the zone. You’re experiencing it with the people who it’s about.
On whether he feels like he can go back to making smaller, indie films after Black Panther
Yeah, I mean I think intimacy can be achieved in a film on any budget. I feel, personally, like I have some of my most intimate scenes I’ve ever made in this movie. You know, I just want to make films that resonate with me, that are interesting to me, that deal with themes that I’m passionate about.
Like, I mean this movie brought me closer to my roots. This movie took me to the continent of Africa, which is somewhere I wanted to go since my mom and dad sat me down and told me I was black, you know what I mean? So I hope to make movies that’ll challenge me as an artist and as a person. That’s really what I hope to do.