Ben Dreyfuss

Engagement Editor

Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones. He's done some other stuff, too. You can email him at But you don't have to. But you can. But you really don't have to. 

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Police Just Released Dashcam Footage of the Laquan McDonald Shooting

| Tue Nov. 24, 2015 7:18 PM EST

On Tuesday, Chicago officials released the dashcam footage from the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video’s release came hours after state prosecutors charged Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke with first-degree murder in McDonald’s shooting last October, reportedly becoming the first cop in the city to face such charges in nearly 35 years.

The video, posted below, is disturbing. (WARNING: Seriously, watch at your own discretion.)

In April, the city of Chicago paid McDonald’s family $5 million, before any lawsuit was formally filed.

The footage and a bond hearing early Tuesday revealed details that differed from the initial police narrative of events. Police previously said they had found McDonald in the street slashing a car’s tires, and that when ordered to drop his knife, he walked away. After a second police car arrived and police tried to block McDonald’s path, police said, McDonald punctured a police car’s tires. When officers got out of the car, police officials alleged McDonald lunged at them with the knife and Van Dyke, who feared for his life, shot him.

Instead, the footage shows McDonald, who was carrying a knife, ambling away from police as Van Dyke and his partner get out of their car. Van Dyke then unloads a barrage of bullets on the teen about six seconds after then. The Chicago Tribune reported that according to prosecutors, Van Dyke fired 16 rounds at McDonald in 14 or 15 seconds and was told to hold his fire when he began to reload his weapon. For about 13 of those seconds, McDonald is on the ground.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez described the video as "deeply disturbing" and told reporters that Van Dyke’s actions "were not justified and were not a proper use of deadly force."

A judge had ordered the video’s release by Wednesday, but Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced that the city would release the video a day early. "The officer in this case took a young man's life and he's going to have to account for his actions," McCarthy told reporters. Van Dyke could face between 20 years and life in prison if convicted.

"With these charges, we are bringing a full measure of justice that this demands," Alvarez said.  

Van Dyke's attorney Daniel Herbert questioned whether the case amounted to a murder case and believed the shooting was justified. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for calm after the video’s release. "Jason Van Dyke will be judged in the court of law," Emanuel told reporters. "That's exactly how it should be." In a statement through attorneys, McDonald’s family reiterated a call for peace and said they would have preferred for the video not to be released.

"No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful," the family said. "Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that."

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The Most Fascinating Thing About Donald Trump's Racist Tweet

| Mon Nov. 23, 2015 11:17 AM EST

On Sunday afternoon, @realDonaldTrump, the official Twitter handle of the Republican presidential front-runner, manually retweeted a deeply racist and inaccurate chart purporting to show racial crime statistics in America. As everyone in the world knows by now, the chart—created by Nazis!—is bullshit. Here's something that is fascinating about the whole episode: Donald Trump almost certainly did not send the tweet.

As I explained in September, only a vanishingly small number of @realDonaldTrump's tweets actually come from Trump himself. He dictates many of his tweets to aides. He sends some—a very small few—himself using an iPhone. And many manual retweets are sent by one of his staffers. Retweets presumably aren't the sort of thing he would be dictating. He's probably not on his phone listening to someone read his mentions and saying, "Retweet that one!" Sunday's tweet was sent from an Android. Trump tweets—when he rarely does—from an iPhone. It's very likely Trump did not send that retweet. Someone who works for him did. This isn't the fascinating thing.

The fascinating thing is that instead of a blaming the tweet on a subordinate—something they haven't been shy about doing in the past—the campaign has chosen to stay silent about it. They have apparently made the political calculation that it would be worse for Trump to acknowledge not sending the racist tweet than to endure a few days of stories about how racist he is. 

It's 2015, and if you're running for the Republican nomination for president, saying racist things doesn't hurt your poll numbers

An email to the Trump campaign seeking clarification on the authorship of the tweet was not immediately returned. 

This Is the Greatest Correction I've Ever Read

| Thu Nov. 19, 2015 6:10 PM EST

Adele's new album is subliiiiiiiiiiime. Read our review.

Bobby Jindal Drops Out of the Presidential Race

| Tue Nov. 17, 2015 6:23 PM EST

RIP Jindal 2016:

"It has been a great honor for me to run for president of the United States," Bobby Jindal told Fox News host Bret Baier in an interview on Tuesday night. "This is not my time. I've come to the realization that this is not my time."

Even in his dropping out speech the Louisiana governor couldn't help but call Obama a "community organizer."


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