Killing of Laquan McDonald plays into race more than facts

Killing of Laquan McDonald plays into race more than facts

Killing of Laquan McDonald plays into race more than facts

What might Laquan McDonald have done had police not stopped him on that October evening in 2014 near 41st and Pulaski Road in Chicago? McDonald, who was menacingly waving a knife in the air as he walked in the middle of the street late at night past curfew, was shot and killed by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke is on trial now and the world is watching to see how much racial politics trumps public safety

By Ray Hanania

Ray HananiaI don’t know why anyone would want to be a police officer. Their job is to keep you safe, whether you want it or not. Based on the coverage of the criminal charges filed against former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke by the “family” of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, clearly there are some people who don’t want police protection at all.

Laquan McDonald was shot and killed by Jason Van Dyke on Oct. 20, 2014 at 41st and Pulaski Road, just before 10 pm.

The trial is taking place now and although we have all seen the video of the shooting, which only shows one angle of the incident, testimony is adding an important dimension.

The incident raises some important questions about how easily relatives of a criminal will do all they can to paint the victim as a saint. It also raises questions about how much energy police should put into the fight against criminals.

What appears to be unequestioned is that Laquan McDonald, who was 6 foot 2 inches tall, was carrying a knife. He used it to puncture the tire of a police squad car and shattered a squad car window.

The actions of an innocent kid, for sure!

He was headed towards a Burger King restaurant, where there were civilians eating, but turned towards a Dunkin Donuts. He was waving the knife.

What do you do?

The way the media and family are trying to cast Laquan McDonald as the innocent victim of police brutality makes me wonder what they might say about the killing this past week of Celia Barquin Arozamena, 22, a Spanish amateur golfer who was in Ames, Iowa this past weekend when another knife-wielding man, Collin Daniel Richards, 22, stabbed her to death.

What would an Iowa police officer have done had he, or she, come up to Richards if he were waving the knife he used to take the life of Arozamena? Do you think Richards’ family would have argued that their son was wayward, raised by a teenage mother or abandoned by his father. He was a “troubled” person, but did he deserve to die?

Did Arozamena deserve to die? In this case, the suspect was caught by police AFTER he murdered the innocent woman victim.

That’s the thing that people seem to forget. Laquan McDonald was carrying a knife, acting erratically, vandalized a police car, refused to listen to police, and was wandering in the middle of the street late at night when he should have been at his home. What if he had walked into that Dunkin Donuts and stabbed a customer or several customers to death?

Would we be blaming the Chicago Police for not doing something to prevent the killing?

And months before, there was the man who kidnapped and stabbed to death a University of Iowa student named Mollie Tibbetts, who vanished while out for a run in the small town of Brooklyn on July 18, 2018. The suspect charged in the Tibbetts murder is Christhian Bahena Rivera, a 24-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexican who should never have been in the country.

Who can focus on the murder of an innocent girl when the suspect is an illegal alien?

How do you know if someone is going to commit a crime? One hint might be if the suspect was carrying a weapon in public and refusing to respond to Police late at night while walking in the middle of the street.

In this case, police shot Laquan McDonald before he could have injured or killed an innocent citizen.

In fairness, I think Jason Van Dyke’s response was excessive. But what’s excessive when the suspect is killed. What’s the difference between shooting a suspect once or 16 times, bringing the suspect who refused to listen to police to surrender to police custody in a Chicago atmosphere where Police are guilty until proven innocent?

I have no sympathy for Laquan McDonald. I have a lot of sympathy for the police. It’s easy for me to say I would have only shot the suspect one time, or maybe twice.

Maybe Laquan McDonald didn’t care what the police wanted. Maybe he figured he could do whatever he wanted. Maybe he wasn’t in control of himself, which would have made him even more dangerous to the public than he was.

The fact that he was shot and killed prevents us from ever knowing if he would have attacked or injured someone? He wasn’t a good kid. He wasn’t an angel. But just because he had a tough life doesn’t mean the rest of society should pay for his sins, or forgive his sins because he suffered the ultimate punishment for wielding a knife late at night while refusing to obey the orders of police.

When I put the two killings together, I feel sorriest for Celia Barquin Arozamena, the Iowa State Cyclones women’s golf team from 2014 to 2018 and Iowa State University Female Athlete of the Year for 2018. She was murdered for no reason.

Maybe Jason Van Dyke could have fired fewer bullets at Laquan McDonald. Maybe he should have waited to fire at Laquan McDonald until after Laquan McDonald knifed another person to death, taking the life of an innocent person much the way Collin Daniel Richards took the life of Celia Barquin Arozamena.

You won’t hear any of this during this politically motivated, racially charged trial taking place in Chicago this week involving Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke and criminal thug Laquan McDonald, who was born to a 15-year old mother, lived in squalor and had a difficult life.

Laquan McDonald’s defenders describe his actions as “minor missteps” and assert that the factors in his life that “led” him to a less than sterling life were “not in his control.” In other words, Laquan McDonald may have been carrying a knife, was out past curfew, wandering the streets late at night, refusing to listen to police and waving the knife in the middle of the street near several restaurants, but was he “in control” of himself?

Laquan McDonald’s family received a $5 million settlement from the City of Chicago, because the video of the shooting is just too much for many people to accept. Crime does happen, but not the way we would like it to go down, apparently.

Laquan McDonald is a Black kid. Celia Barquin Arozamena was a foreigner from Spain. Officer Jason Van Dyke is White. And who knows and who cares about Tibbetts’ killer? He’s not talking. And the tragic story? Well, it’s all about race and less about crime, safety or being responsible for your own actions.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and columnist. You can reach him at his personal website at or by email at

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at

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