Van Dykes’s Defense Uses Computer Animation re-creating the Shooting of Laquan McDonald

(Tribune) Officer Jason Van Dyke’s legal team continued presenting its case for a second day in his murder trial Tuesday, including a much-anticipated computer animation re-creating the shooting of Laquan McDonald from the embattled police officer’s perspective. Here are five takeaways from the sixth overall day of testimony.

Jurors on Tuesday watched the much-anticipated defense animation that re-created the shooting of Laquan McDonald from Officer Jason Van Dyke’s perspective.

The four-minute “laser-based analysis” offered the jury a much different view of the same events caught in the now-infamous police dashboard camera video. It was created by Jason Fries, who heads a California company that specializes in recreating events for law enforcement and other clients.

In the animation, McDonald is shown walking down Pulaski Road as Van Dyke and his partner get out of their squad car. The view then shifts to an overhead perspective above the street, showing McDonald – in somewhat crude, herky-jerky movements – walking to a point that was almost parallel to the officer, who had his gun drawn.

The animation then switches to an angle from behind Van Dyke’s shoulder. It shows McDonald closing from 39 feet to 13 feet in a few seconds before Van Dyke opened fire as the teen was just at the point of passing south of the officer.

Van Dyke and his partner had pulled up ahead of McDonald as he walked south on Pulaski Road.

As in the police dashboard camera video, the animation shows McDonald spin and fall to the street as Van Dyke continued to fire. The first shot shown in the video was the one that the defense pathologist has previously testified was the fatal wound – a gunshot to McDonald’s chest that severed his pulmonary artery.

Fries testified that he consulted with Dr. Shaku Teas, the pathologist hired by the defense, when trying to recreate where the first shots struck McDonald.

Unlike the dashcam video, the animation ends once McDonald hits the pavement and does not depict Van Dyke continuing to shoot as the teen laid on the street.

Fries said he relied on a number of factors in creating the animation, including police radio traffic, surveillance cameras and footage of the area his company shot using a drone.

But the most useful tool in recreating a shooting with many moving parts was the police dashcam video, he said.

“The video really made our job easier,” he said.

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