Former Chicago officer who killed Laquan McDonald released from prison
CHICAGO (AP) — A former Chicago police officer who was convicted in the shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald was released from prison Thursday after serving less than half of his sentence.
Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Van Dyke was released Thursday morning, although she did not have further details, including where he was imprisoned.
Jason Van Dyke, who is white, had been in custody since being convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault in the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald, who was armed with a knife as he walked away from the officer. Van Dyke served approximately three years and four months of his six-year-and-nine-month sentence, earning early release for his good behavior in prison.
Police dash cam footage showed Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, including multiple times after the teenager collapsed to the ground. The video, which city officials tried to keep the public from seeing for more than a year, put Chicago at the center of the national debate over law enforcement’s treatment of black people and other minorities. .
Van Dyke was the first Chicago police officer to be convicted of murder on duty in about half a century.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.
CHICAGO (AP) — Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was released from prison on Thursday after serving less than four years for the murder of black teenager Laquan McDonald, and many considered his early release the last chapter in the city’s disturbing history. of race and police.
Van Dyke, who is white, became the first Chicago officer in about half a century to be convicted of murder on duty in 2018, and many black leaders hoped his second-degree murder conviction and 16 Aggravated battery leaders signaled a desire to hold officers accountable. But they say he would be released after serving about three years and four months of his six-year-and-nine-month sentence turned McDonald and the others into victims.
“It’s the ultimate illustration that black lives don’t matter as much as other lives,” said Reverend Marshall Hatch, a prominent cabinet minister for the city’s West Side. “Getting this short time for a murder sends the wrong message to the community.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot made a similar point.
“I understand why this continues to look like a miscarriage of justice, especially when many black and brown men are being sentenced to much longer in prison for committing far less serious crimes,” she said in a statement Thursday. communicated.
To give the teenager and the community the justice he hoped to see with Van Dyke’s sentencing, the NAACP this week asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to bring federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke. McDonald’s grandmother Tracie Hunter asked the same thing.
It was unclear if Van Dyke had been released Thursday morning. The state Department of Corrections, which would not say where Van Dyke was jailed out of concern for his safety, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It’s also unclear whether Van Dyke could face federal charges. But what is clear is that his release comes at a perilous time for the city and its police force. Chicago is seeing an upsurge in violent crime and had more homicides last year than any in the past quarter century. The city continues to pay multi-million awards to victims of police abuse. And just this week, prosecutors said they would overturn the convictions of nearly 50 other people accused or falsely accused by police of drug-related crimes.
Admittedly, the 2014 shooting ultimately led to a court-ordered consent decree that prompted several reforms, including the creation of a civilian-led police oversight board and new rules governing shooting investigations. policewomen. And after the city refused to release the police video of McDonald’s murder for more than a year and only did so after a judge ordered it to do so, it must now release these videos within 60 days.
But, while Lightfoot in his statement highlighted the “historic reforms” the city has made, the changes have been slower than expected and the city has struggled to meet some of the consent decree deadlines. Not only that, but just as then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought the release of McDonald’s video in court, Lightfoot’s administration tried to block a television station from showing video of McDonald’s. a botched police raid in which an innocent black woman was handcuffed while naked. Ultimately, the failed raid led to a $2.9 million settlement with the wife, Anjanette Young.
For Hatch and others, Van Dyke’s early release is another reminder of what they already knew.
“It only reinforces that sense of desperation in African American communities and reinforces the idea that police can continue their oppressive behavior in those communities and either be exonerated or given light sentences,” said Chico Tillmon, senior researcher at the University of Chicago. Crime Lab and a former gang member.
“I served 16 years and 3 months for conspiracy to sell drugs and someone who committed murder, openly, publicly, did 3 and a half years,” he said. “This kind of thing happens over and over again.”
Hatch’s anger stems in part from a sense that the criminal justice system was about to finally work for a black victim of police brutality before the judge called a legal hearing convicting Van Dyke solely of second-degree murder – a charge that allows defendants to serve half their sentence if they behave in prison – not any of the 16 counts of aggravated battery.
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who helped force the city to release the video, agrees, calling the phrase “a slap in the face for black people and those of us who care about accountability. of the police”.
But at the same time, Futterman said, “It was almost unbelievable that there was a murder prosecution and conviction.”
And although McDonald’s great-uncle, the Reverend Marvin Hunter, believes the sentence was woefully inadequate, he said that doesn’t detract from the importance of the case.
“If Jason Van Dyke had ever been in jail, it would have been a win because he was the first,” Hunter said. “Since then, police officers across the country have been convicted of murdering black people.”
Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor who led a team of lawyers that secured Van Dyke’s conviction and asked the judge to impose an 18-20 year sentence, said he hopes people don’t think not that Van Dyke escaped punishment.
“I know it’s hard to accept, especially for minority communities marginalized by the police and the criminal justice system for decades, but this (conviction and sentence) is a sign of progress,” he said. -he declares.
“Any length of time for a former cop is tough,” McMahon added. “He was physically assaulted, spent most of the time in solitary confinement and that is a result of the very real danger he has faced day in and day out for the past 3 1/2 years.”
As Hatch sees it, Van Dyke’s release couldn’t come at a worse time for the police department, which has been scrambling to regain the public trust that the McDonald case helped break.
“They’re trying to restore faith in law enforcement and now we have this?” he said. “And it will be absolutely harder to get people to complain about the cops.”
For more on the AP’s coverage of the Laquan McDonald case: https://apnews.com/hub/laquan-mcdonald
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