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Jason Van Dyke, The Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald, Being Released Early — But Activists Are Calling For Federal Charges

A rally against Van Dyke's early release is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the early release "disappointing."

Jason Van Dyke listens to testimony at his sentencing hearing Friday, Jan. 18.
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CHICAGO — Disgraced former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who in 2018 was convicted of murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, is being released early from prison.

Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison for the 2014 slaying, but he’s being released after about three years for good behavior. His early release, while controversial, was expected — and Chicagoans have already planned a rally in protest while calling for the former officer to face federal charges.

The Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression will hold a rally at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Federal Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn St., where organizers will call for Van Dyke to face federal charges. More information about the rally is available online.

“The movement fought for years to get Van Dyke behind bars, and we will not let him walk free after murdering a teenager,” the rally’s organizers wrote online.

Hundreds of people have posted on Facebook that they are interested in going to the rally.

Will Calloway, an activist who pushed for the release of the video that showed Van Dyke killing McDonald, has called for other protests and for federal charges.

McDonald’s family members have expressed different views on the case, with some saying the focus should be on reforming the Police Department overall while others want more consequences for Van Dyke.

Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth recently wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for an update on the federal investigation into Van Dyke, according to WTTW’s Matt Masterson.

Rep. Bobby Rush, who represents part of the South Side, also told CNN’s Omar Jimenez he does not think justice has been served in the case.

“And so there’s no comfort, there’s no relaxing. There’s no sense of, ‘Well, let’s move on,’ because we can’t move on,” Rush said. “I can’t rest comfortably until I know have exhausted all the means.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Van Dyke’s early release is “disappointing” and highlights issues that sow distrust in the criminal justice system.

“… While the jury reached the correct guilty verdict, the judge’s decision to sentence Van Dyke to only 81 months was and remains a supreme disappointment,” Lightfoot said in an emailed statement Thursday morning. “I understand why this continues to feel like a miscarriage of justice, especially when many Black and brown men get sentenced to so much more prison time for having committed far lesser crimes. It’s these distortions in the criminal justice system, historically, that have made it so hard to build trust.

“While I know this moment is disappointing, it should not prevent us from seeing the significant progress Van Dyke’s prosecution and conviction represent.”

Lightfoot said Van Dyke’s prosecution led to Chicago’s Police Department being put under a consent decree and making “historic reforms.”

Notably, the Police Department has repeatedly missed deadlines for enacting reforms under the consent decree.

The murder of McDonald happened Oct. 20, 2014, but it initially did not garner widespread attention.

It wasn’t until November 2015 that Van Dyke was charged in the killing and video of the shooting was released.

The video showed McDonald — who officers said had been behaving erratically that night and was carrying a knife — walking outside while other police officers and cars were around him. Van Dyke arrived at the scene and, within seconds of getting out of his car, fired 16 shots at the teenager as McDonald appeared to be walking away from him.

Van Dyke was the first Chicago police officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty shooting.

Credit: Provided
A vigil will be held for Laquan McDonald (left) outside the courthouse where Officer Jason Van Dyke (right) has been on trial for murder in the teen’s death.

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