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LGBT Groups Call for Justice as Chicago Cop Charged With Murder

Chicago protests

The release of a video showing a white officer shooting a black teenager 16 times has brought calls for further investigation and action on racial issues.

LGBT groups are reacting to the release of video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting to death a young black man, making calls for further investigation and a renewed effort for racial justice.

Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot 13 months ago by Officer Jason Van Dyke on a city street. Van Dyke was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, and shortly after he appeared in court, Chicago officials released dashcam video of the confrontation between McDonald and Van Dyke. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said Van Dyke had been on the scene less than 30 seconds and out of his police car just six seconds when he began firing, CNN reports. McDonald, who reportedly had been acting oddly, was carrying a three-inch knife, and toxicology reports indicate he had the drug PCP in his system.

"Yet he wasn't within 10 feet of anyone at the time the shots rang out," CNN notes. "Several other officers were at the scene with Van Dyke, and none of them fired any shots." Alvarez said the video "will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans."

However, Daniel Q. Herbert, Van Dyke's lawyer, told CNN Wednesday that the officer "truly was in fear for his life as well as the lives of his fellow officers." Video, he said, "is two-dimensional and it distorts images."

The release of the video led to protests, largely peaceful, in Chicago last night. Many activists questioned why it took the state's attorney's office so long to release it and to bring charges.

If convicted, Van Dyke faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

National LGBTQ Task Force deputy executive director Russell Roybal Wednesday issued a statement calling for a federal investigation into McDonald's killing as well as an attack on Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis in which five people were wounded.

"Last night, authorities in Chicago released a videotape showing Laquan McDonald being shot sixteen times by police. A white police officer has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of McDonald. On Monday, five activists calling for racial justice were shot while taking part in a demonstration near a Minneapolis police station -- where protests have been staged since November 15. Three white men have been arrested in connection to the allegedly racially motived attack.

"We our outraged by this senseless violence against Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis and the recently released video showing the callous murder of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police. These are appalling acts of violence and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Laquan McDonald and of the activists who were attacked in Minneapolis. We urge the Justice Department to swiftly investigate both shootings as hate crimes and to use every tool in their power to bring justice to Laquan McDonald and the Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis.

"While some might think these shootings are isolated incidents, the reality is that these malicious attacks are part of an epidemic of violence--the targeting and killing of Black people--that is taking place all across America. The Minneapolis attack on Black Lives Matter activists and the murder of Laquan McDonald show that our nation has yet to eliminate racism. We call on everyone to join us in our work to end violence, to end the excessive use of force by police, and to increase accountability and transparency at local police departments. We can and must continue to do more to end all forms of racism and discrimination."

Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, a statewide LGBT rights group, also issued a statement:

"We at Equality Illinois are outraged and saddened by the killing of Laquan McDonald. We offer our condolences and support to his family and friends.

"As the advocacy voice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Illinoisans, we stand in solidarity with those in Chicago and Illinois who fight for racial, economic, and social justice. We will continue to engage in focused advocacy, dialogue, and education to end violence against marginalized communities and to ensure lived equality for all people."

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