The former Chicago police officer that killed Laquan McDonald, and was convicted for his murder, will be released from prison next month. After serving three of his almost seven-year sentence, the man is being let out early for good behavior.
Jason Van Dyke, the ex-cop that fatally shot the 17-year-old Black teen 16 times in 2014, is about to be a free man. After serving less than half of his sentence, he will be released on Feb. 3.
The shooting of McDonald captured national attention. McDonald was shot as he fled from Van Dyke across a Southwest Side intersection on Monday night, Oct. 20, 2014.
The dashcam video from the officer’s vehicle released over a year later was not only used as evidence but brought into question for many the power of the blue “code of silence” within law enforcement. It took over three years from the murder for the officer to be indicted for the crime.
Four years after the murder, in October of 2018, the man was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for each bullet that struck the boy.
The next year, in 2019, Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months for the crime, significantly less than the 18 to 20 years suggested by the prosecution. Van Dyke originally appealed the conviction, but after a year into his time, he desired to keep a low profile and just complete his sentence.
Van Dyke’s former appeals attorney believes that his prison time was hard spent. She said he spent a lot of time alone thinking about his crime and is hoping to have a new start away from the media spotlight.
Lawyer Jennifer Blagg shared, “This case has taken a huge toll on the family of Laquan, the city of Chicago, and Jason and his family. Jason accepted the verdict and sentence, as he did not appeal.”
“I don’t presume to speak for Jason,” she continued. “But it is my sincere hope that he and his family are given their privacy as they make this transition, with Jason having served the majority of his time in solitary confinement.”
While Van Dyke was in prison, within hours of being transferred to general population in prison, he was beaten up by other inmates, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
He was transferred to several facilities over the three years of his incarceration and at one point placed in protective custody. Because he was a “high-risk” inmate, he was placed in solitary confinement.
“It certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for him,” his former attorney Dan Herbert said, adding, “He’s paid his debt to society. Now he hopes he can just move on and have a quiet productive life.”
But many are saying not so fast.
With the early release, activists, faith leaders, and family members are outraged and are asking for federal civil rights violations charges to be brought against the 43-year-old.
Kamiera Williams of GoodKids Mad City, an organization set up to steer Black and brown youth away from violence, said Van Dyke’s release is disrespectful, “It’s not a slap on our face, it’s the spit on our face.”
Others are requesting action.
“We’ve read the law. We’ve studied the law. So they can’t say that there are statute of limitations,” William Calloway, one of the activists at the root of this campaign and who helped circulate the dashcam video in 2015 to the public, said at a press conference.
“He has to do the right thing as a U.S. attorney and protect us,” he continued. “Jason Van Dyke is a danger to the community. I don’t feel safe. I feel like my life is threatened if he were to be released. “
If those charges are not sought, the protesters are calling for the Chicago Transit Authority to shut down for a little over two weeks.
The campaign calls for a 16-day shut-off of public transportation for the 16 shots that killed McDonald.
Illinois New Live reports Calloway as saying, “We want Local 241 and Local 308 — the trains and the buses — we want them to stand with us. We want them to stand in solidarity with us.
Bishop Tabis Grant of the Rainbow Push Union said the protest will show the powers that be that the community is strong and is serious about their demands, “We know the power of boycotts. We know the power of sit-ins. We know the power of marching.”
The activists are also asking for politicians to step in and join the protest. Dr. Lashawna Littrice of Make Noise For Change reminded the public, “When all of these people ran for the office, they ran behind Laquan McDonald.”
Relatives of the deceased said the family was notified on Friday, Jan. 14, about the release, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Rev. Marvin Hunter, the boy’s uncle and the pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church, said, “I’m hoping he’s learned the errors of his ways. I have always asked for justice and not revenge.”
“We got as much justice you could get with the players that were there at the time he was on trial.” Disillusioned about the current state of justice in his town, he continued. “The system needs to be changed, it needs to be overhauled.”
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