Chicago, IL — Four years after murdering a high school student in October 2018, former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm after shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. In January 2019, he was sentenced to just 6 years and 9 months in prison.
While the sentence is certainly short given the slew of crimes, what little justice was being served came to a grinding halt this week after authorities announced that Van Dyke will be released early, serving less than half of his sentence. Now, activists are calling for this killer cop to be federally charged.
“You got a white man that murdered a boy, shooting him 16 times in cold blood on camera,” community activist William Calloway said. “And the federal government has not even touched him. That’s not justice. That’s racism. We got to call it what it is.”
Calloway and other activists are now calling for a citywide shutdown of the Chicago Transit Authority until its demands for Chicago’s top federal prosecutor are met.
“We are here because we are outraged,” LaShawn Littrice, another activist said at a protest over the weekend. “We are disgusted. We are traumatized, and we are hurt.”
This case has been swarmed in controversy since before the short 81-month sentence was handed down by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan as he chose to only sentence Van Dyke on the second-degree murder count and not the 16 counts of aggravated battery—which would have put him away longer.
When we originally reported Van Dykes short sentence, we predicted that he would be getting out by now, after serving less than half the sentence. Unfortunately, we were correct.
As TFTP previously reported, Van Dyke claimed he 'feared for his life' that fateful night, as the teen walked slowly down the street, trying to get away. However, the video of the incident was so damning that the cop was actually charged.
Surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, McDonald, was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a small knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense.
But according to witness statements and police dashcam video, McDonald was walking away when Van Dyke opened fire. After McDonald had collapsed to the ground in a near-fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer had to order him to cease firing at the dying teen.
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McDonald’s autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot him 16 times, including two bullets in the back, seven in his arms, two in his right leg, once on each side of his chest, and single bullets wounds to his right hand, scalp, and neck. Nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward trajectory. None of the five other officers at the scene fired their weapons.
Before McDonald’s family could even file a lawsuit, the city gave them a $5 million settlement on the condition that the family agreed not to publicly release the dashcam footage of the teen’s death. After suppressing the video for 13 months, the city received a court order to release the footage. The city released the dashcam video in 2015, which clearly shows McDonald did not lunge at the officers before the fatal shooting.
In May of 2015, Burger King district manager Jay Darshane accused officers of deleting the security footage after spending over three hours in the fast food restaurant on the night of the shooting. According to Darshane, the video equipment was working properly, but 86 minutes of footage, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., disappeared after the officers left.
Charged with first-degree murder, Van Dyke fired his first shot at 9:57 p.m. When asked if he was certain that the officers deleted the footage of the killing, Darshane answered, “Yes.”
Although 86 minutes of the surveillance video had gone missing, including the moment that McDonald was gunned down, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez claimed no one tampered with the footage.
“We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files,” Darshane said. “I mean we were just trying to help the police officers.”
Unable to clearly explain why the 86 minutes disappeared, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy blamed the missing files on technical difficulties. At a press conference, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez asserted that no one had tampered with the Burger King surveillance video. When asked who conducted the forensic testing, Alvarez did not appear to know the answer.
Alvarez responded, “That’s all I’m going to say on this.”
Although the police department and state’s attorney claim the officers did not delete those 86 missing minutes, remember that this information came from the same cops who initially lied about the shooting and the same officials who suppressed the police dashcam video for 13 months.
Like the murder of George Floyd, the death of Laquan McDonald served as an impetus behind police reform across the country as well as in Chicago. Following the controversy surrounding his death the city of Chicago was forced to release years of police brutality videos, showing the horrifying abuse of the city's citizens by their ostensible protectors.