Lawyer for Chicago police officer says video 'distorts images' - CNN

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Chicago Police Release Video of Laquan McDonald Shooting

Nov 25 (Reuters) - The lawyer for a white Chicago police officer charged in the 2014 murder of a black teenager said on Wednesday his client feared for his life and that dashboard camera footage released by police is unreliable because video "distorts images."

Daniel Herbert told CNN that Officer Jason Van Dyke arrived at the scene 18 minutes after a suspect carrying a knife was reported to have threatened businesses and vandalized police cruisers. Prosecutors said Van Dyke shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times only 30 seconds after he arrived.

READ MORE: Chicago charges officer in black teen's death, releases video of shooting

"The reason my client Jason fired his weapon that evening back in October 2014 is that he truly was in fear for his life as well as the lives of his fellow police officers," Herbert said.

The Chicago shooting charges followed more than a year of unrest across the United States over police shootings of black men that was sparked after the August 2014 killing of unarmed Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri.

The video of the McDonald shooting, shot by a camera mounted on the dashboard of a police car and made public on Tuesday under orders from a judge, prompted mostly peaceful street demonstrations in Chicago. Van Dyke, the first Chicago police officer to face a murder charge for an on-duty incident in decades, was charged hours before the video was released.

Authorities said McDonald was carrying a pocket knife and had the hallucinogenic drug PCP in his system when he was killed.

Photos of the protests in Chicago following the video release:

8 PHOTOS
Protests in Chicago following Laquan McDonald shooting by police conviction
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Lawyer for Chicago police officer says video 'distorts images' - CNN
Protesters form a line and walk holding signs that spell out 'Laquan' following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015, in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters take to the streets in Chicago following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators confront police during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Police stand guard as demonstrators march through downtown during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Bus passengers watch as demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Prosecutors said Van Dyke fired the 16 shots within 30 seconds of arriving and just six seconds after emerging from his patrol car, emptying his gun at McDonald and preparing to reload. Herbert told CNN his client was afraid McDonald was going to attack him with a knife.

Herbert said the video was not an indicator of his client's guilt.

"Video by its nature is 2-dimensional. It distorts images. So what appears to be clear on a video sometimes is not always that clear," Herbert said.

Chicago Alderman Emma Mitts told MSNBC on Wednesday the video does not show anything that would justify the shooting and said Van Dyke's conduct was "just unacceptable."

Mitts said McDonald's family had not wanted the video made public but now wants action taken.

"There's a pain that the family is feeling," she said. "The family don't want to relive that pain over again. We expect change."

The release of the video itself has been controversial.

Civil rights activist Al Sharpton criticized Chicago city officials for blocking the video, which was made public only after an independent journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Check out the demographics of Chicago, IL:

Sharpton, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, called for a special prosecutor to handle the case "because the politics here needs to be investigated."

The Chicago Police Department had argued that releasing the video would taint multiple investigations.

"Investigations of police shootings and misconduct are highly complex matters that carry with them very unique legal issues, that must be fully examined and taken into consideration," Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez said on Tuesday.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, appearing on CNN, said rising violence in big cities makes it hard to be a police officer. However, Bush said, "When they do what appears to have happened here they should be charged as was the case in this case." (Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

Photos from the Jason Van Dyke case:

18 PHOTOS
Laquan McDonald shooting, Jason Van Dyke
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Lawyer for Chicago police officer says video 'distorts images' - CNN
Laquan McDonald (R) walks on a road before he was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, in this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke sits in the courtroom during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool File Photo
A wreath with the words "Rest In Peace Laquan McDonald" stands at the site where the 17-year-old McDonald was shot 16 times and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in an October 2014 incident on the west side of Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond until he is due back in court on November 30. REUTERS/Frank Polich
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: In this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera relased by the Chicago Police Department on November 24, 2015 , Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Officer Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 07: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer outside the mayor's office in City Hall on December7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old McDonald on October 20, 2014, hitting him with 16 bullets. Van Dyke was charged with murder more than a year after the shooting following a judge's orders to release to the public a police video of the shooting. Today, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department will open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18 : Chicago police officers surround a police vehicle as they watch demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald December 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder last month in the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald last year, was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct earlier this week. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 31: Demonstrators calling the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stage a 'die-in' inside of City Hall on December 31, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The shooting deaths by police of a 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones and a recently released video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke have sparked dozens of protests in the city. Yesterday Emanuel announced several changes that would take place in the police department with the hope of preventing future incidents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
during protests in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015 reacting to the release of a police video of the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white policeman, Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was charged with murder in the incident. REUTERS/Jim Young
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURY Laquan McDonald walks on a road (top L -R) and is subsequently shot (bottom R) by police officer Jason Van Dyke (not pictured) in Chicago, in this combination of still images taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. TEMPLATE OUT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A protester demonstrates in response to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 25, 2015. Laquan McDonald, 17, was fatally shot by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, in October 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles
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