Sixteen Shots

Chicago police have told their version of how 17-year-old black teen Laquan McDonald died. The autopsy tells a different story.

An autopsy tells a story. The genre is mystery: a narrative set in motion by a corpse. The pathologist-narrator investigates the cause of death in precise, descriptive prose that ultimately allows the dead to testify about what happened to them. In the case of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old black youth killed by Chicago police on Oct. 20, 2014, the autopsy raises questions not only about how he died, but about how the Chicago Police Department has handled the case since. While it does not provide all the details of what transpired that night, the autopsy makes one thing clear: The account of the incident given by the police cannot be true.

Here is what police at the scene told reporters: At around 9:45 p.m., a squad car responded to a call that someone was trying to break into cars in an industrial area on the southwest side of Chicago. The officers found a boy, Laquan McDonald, standing in the street with a knife. They observed him stabbing the tires of a vehicle. When they ordered him to drop the knife, he ignored them and walked away, down the street.

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