NORTH LAWNDALE – Hours after a guilty verdict in the Jason Van Dyke case, the family of slain teenager Laquan McDonald held a news conference in a West Side church to thank the jury – and God – for justice.
Marvin Hunter, pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church and Laquan’s great uncle, said that the family’s quest for justice began four years ago, when he attempted to call prominent black attorneys and activists around the city telling them how a police officer shot his nephew 16 times – and asking them for help.
He was met with skepticism, Hunter said, adding that “those people thought it was impossible to have a police officer convicted for doing anything to a black person” in this county.
But now, he said, “the day of paying for rogue police officers is over.”
Surrounded by other family members at the church where Laquan was laid to rest, 1457 S. Kenneth Ave., Hunter said he’s constantly asked by the media whether the family wants revenge for Laquan’s killing.
“This family has never once asked for revenge. This family wanted justice, because revenge belongs to God,” he said.
And even though “Jason Van Dyke has never asked this family for forgiveness,” Hunter said they will continue to pray for him and his family.
“Let us begin to heal, and let us not heal and become docile,” he said. “Let us heal and become motivated.”
He added that from Day One the McDonald family has pushed for peaceful protest and for turning their devastation into political power by becoming civically engaged. Holding police accountable is good for the community and for “good police officers” who are just trying to do their jobs and serve the people, Hunter said.
“All police are not bad,” he said. “I have police officers in my family, I have police officers that belong to this church.”
But “let us never forget,” he added, that Van Dyke had 20 excessive force complaints against him. A functioning system would not allow that officer to continue serving, he said urging for a change to the Fraternal Order of Police contract to ensure justice.
“Give the superintendent in the police department the power that he need to fire bad police officers,” he said.
“Before the payout for Laquan McDonald, [Van Dyke] had already cost the city of Chicago over $500,000, and they never thought it to be a red flag to get rid of him,” he said.
Hunter emphasized the need for Chicagoans to become “activated” in their neighborhoods and head to the voting booth during the upcoming election and make “voting decisions that will put us in a position that no more of our black boys and girls will die at the hands of an unjust police officer.”
The McDonald family was relieved by the verdict, the pastor said, adding “this was how the American justice system is supposed to work.”
“Jason Van Dyke didn’t give Laquan McDonalds his day in court. He decided to act as judge, jury and executioner and now [Van Dyke’s] fate has been sealed,” Hunter added.
The verdict represents a “cultural change,” where police officers now have to think before taking action, the family member said.
“It is a step toward change, how big or how small is too early to be seen,” he said.
With the verdict, “Laquan McDonald’s legacy has become a symbol of hope for justice, for all of the mothers and fathers who have lost children at the hands of a rogue and unjust police officer,” Hunter said.
“This is not just a victory for the Hunter family, it is a victory for all families across this country,” he added.
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