Laquan McDonaldSeptember 28, 1995 ~ October 20, 2014 (age 19)
CHICAGO — When Laquan McDonald was nearly 16 and locked up again in a juvenile detention center, he tried to brush aside the challenges of his complicated life.
Born to a teenage mother, shuttled among five homes in the first five years of his life, abused and neglected, the teen described why he used marijuana every day. It gave him a calmness, he explained to a court clinician tasked with the teen's evaluation, that suppressed his anger, allowing him to keep a constant "smile on my face."
While records show his father was absent from his life, the teen shrugged off the idea of abandonment. He couldn't recall the man ever having been around, he said.
"It is what it is," said McDonald, according to the summer 2013 interview. "My momma was there all the time. Don't need no daddy."
McDonald knew the gritty truth about his life and all its jagged edges. Sadly, the odds of survival were stacked against him from the time he was born until one month after his 17th birthday, when an encounter with Chicago police ended with the teen lying in a city street, his body riddled with 16 bullet wounds.
The release last month of a dash-cam video that captured his October 2014 death sparked protests throughout Chicago, a fallout that cost the city's top cop his job, embroiled the mayor and state's attorney in scandal, exposed the failings of how Chicago police handle officer-involved shootings and led to a sweeping federal civil rights investigation. The fatal shooting involving a black teen and white cop also has stirred impassioned debates about race.
Officer Jason Van Dyke has been indicted on six counts of first-degree murder for gunning down McDonald, who authorities allege was on PCP and holding a knife with a 3-inch blade. The video shows that Van Dyke opened fire when McDonald was walking away, not lunging with the weapon as police alleged.
Much has been said about that night. But for the first time, in hundreds of pages of juvenile delinquency court records reviewed by the Chicago Tribune, as well as other documents and interviews, a more complete picture is revealed of Laquan Jahari McDonald's short life — sometimes in his own words — and the efforts of the professionals who tried to save him.
The Mortuary Master & Staff have been called upon to serve the family. Services will be announced at a later date.