The officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times has spoken publicly for the first time since the shooting.
Officer Jason Van Dyke called the day of the shooting his “darkest day” and said he prays about the incident every day.
“I offer up a rosary every day,” Van Dyke, a Catholic, told The Chicago Tribune.
Van Dyke also said he is very worried about potential jail time. He will go on trial for his role in McDonald's death in September.
“Of course, I’m extremely nervous,” he said. “I might be looking at the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job as I was trained to do as a Chicago police officer.” He added that what concerns him most about being in prison is that it would mean he'd be away from his family.
The Tribune described the interview as “tightly controlled” by Van Dyke's legal team and PR consultant. The paper also reported his attorney asked for a list of questions in advance and told Van Dyke which questions to refuse to answer.
The team would not allow him to comment on the shooting, but he said pulling his weapon was a tough decision.
“Any loss of life was extremely difficult. It’s something you try to mentally prepare yourself for just in case. … You don’t ever want to shoot your gun,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s to put down a stray animal or something like that. Nobody wants to shoot their gun. I never would have fired my gun if I didn’t think my life was in jeopardy or another citizen’s life was. It’s something you have to live with forever.”
Van Dyke went on to say he believes he is a victim of the country’s current, polarized political climate.
“Everyone wants to be part of the bandwagon of hatred. Anyone who knows me, knows me personally, knows … that I’m not a racist,” he said. “That’s a great false narrative. … It’s just slander.”
McDonald’s mother declined to comment on the interview, but the teen's great-uncle Reverend Martin Hunter dismissed the interview as a PR stunt.
“I don’t know the man,” Hunter said. “Is he really praying or is he just saying what he thinks you want to hear? They’re trying to write a narrative. They’re trying to influence the jury. I’m not mad or surprised because it’s just legal maneuvers.”
Van Dyke shot McDonald within six seconds of exiting his police car. The officer said the teen charged at him with a knife, but dash cam video showed McDonald being shot as he walked away from the cop.
Van Dyke’s trial is scheduled to start on September 5, as Blavity previously reported. The city of Chicago has already rewarded McDonald’s family $5 million in damages.
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