The Chicago police officer who fatally shot teenager Laquan McDonald has broken his silence ahead of his murder trial.
Jason Van Dyke is refusing to discuss the 2014 shooting incident itself, during which he fired at McDonald 16 times after claiming he had been acting erratically, but has given interviews to Fox32, a Chicago, Illinois-based Fox affiliate, and the Chicago Tribune.
Despite the national conversation on race and policing triggered by the event, Van Dyke denied accusations of racism.
"This is a false narrative by people who are trying to confuse fact with their own opinion. Anybody who knows me knows I'm not a racist," Van Dyke said to Fox32.
Van Dyke also discussed his fears about the upcoming trial and the ways his life has changed since the violent altercation, including his declining mental health in the wake of the crisis.
"I'm extremely nervous. I'm petrified at the fact that I may be going to prison for the rest of my life for an act that I was trained to do by the Chicago Police Department," he said.
"I would like the jury to know the facts of the situation that happened ... And I would like them to make a decision based on evidence and not on opinion."
"My life will never be normal again," he continued. "Just from a sense of employment, I'll never be a police officer again. I'll still have to live with this for the rest of my life ... Since I learned that I was going to have to turn myself in in a couple of days, I was driving myself home after vacation… Had all kinds of thoughts going through my head. I thought about just driving at a high speed into an embankment."
Van Dyke told a similar story to the Chicago Tribune, emphasizing his reluctance to fire his gun in the first place.
“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. It doesn’t matter if it’s to put down a stray animal or something like that. Nobody wants to shoot their gun,” he told the Tribune. “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.”
“I think I was a great police officer,” he continued. “I always made efforts to treat everybody fairly and with respect and the way I wanted my own family to be treated.”
Van Dyke's trial will begin on September 5, according to the Chicago Tribune. Police have held meetings with local activists to discuss planned demonstrations pertaining to the trial. Van Dyke will argue in court that he shot McDonald in self-defense, despite controversial video evidence, the audio of which had been suspiciously damaged, which seemed to show McDonald walking away from the officers at the time he was shot.
Van Dyke was officially charged with first-degree murder in November 2015. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
[Photo: Jason Van Dyke by Scott Olson/Getty Images]