Jason Van Dyke released from prison; 9 arrested at downtown protest demanding federal charges

ByDiane Pathieu, Chuck Goudie, Liz Nagy, and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Friday, February 4, 2022
Jason Van Dyke released from prison
Jason Van Dyke has been released from prison Thursday, while a Chicago protests called for federal charges in the Laquan McDonald shooting.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Jason Van Dyke was released prison Thursday, the ABC7 I-Team has learned.

The former Chicago police officer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 81 months, or six years and nine months, in prison for shooting and killing Laquan McDonald in 2014. But he will have served less than half that when he is released.

Video of the shooting from a police dashboard camera, released more than a year later, was a key piece of evidence in the trial and inflamed public reaction across the country.

His release is not considered special treatment but is based on state rules that allow anyone to be released after about half their time with good behavior.

Law enforcement officials told the I-Team he was flown into Illinois last Friday from a facility not under state control, perhaps another state or a federal lockup. He was released from Taylorville Correctional Center near Springfield at 12:15 a.m. Thursday, an IDOC spokesperson said.

RELATED: Juror who convicted Jason Van Dyke of Laquan McDonald murder surprised at early release

Van Dyke does have to report to state probation. He also can't leave the state during his three-year supervised release period.

There is still the unanswered question of whether the US Justice Department will now charge Van Dyke with violating Laquan McDonald's civil rights.There has been a federal; investigation underway but so far no charges-and no indication of imminent charges from the DOJ.

The ABC7 I-Team has learned that top security officials in Chicago even met with downtown business officials to discuss security concerns in the event of any civil disturbances.

9 arrested at protest in Federal Plaza

Nine people were arrested at a protest against Jason Van Dyke's early prison release Thursday. They were all released from custody by Thursday night.

Several community groups and activists were joined by dozens of people to protest at Federal Plaza. They want to see Van Dyke back behind bars.

"He's going to jail," said community organizer William Calloway. "Y'all got to have that faith."

Calloway spearheaded the years-long charge that led to Van Dyke's conviction, the first in 50 years of a Chicago police officer for killing someone while on the job.

Nine people were arrested inside the Dirksen Federal Building for violating the chief judge's order for demonstrations and appeared in court Thursday night, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals said. They had all been released by shortly after 8 p.m.

The groups included Reverend Jesse Jackson and The Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Father Pfleger from Saint Sabina Church, Black Lives Matter Chicago and others. Many people including politicians are calling for the Department of Justice to file federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke.

"When George Floyd was killed, his killer was tried, the state tried it and now it's back in federal court," said Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. "The state did not do its job here. The crime and time does not correspond."

ALSO SEE: 'Don't let this man out:' Laquan McDonald's grandmother calls for Jason Van Dyke to stay in prison

Relatives of Laquan McDonald support the calls for federal charges, saying the prison time Van Dyke served wasn't enough.

"I want federal charges against this man," said McDonald's grandmother Tracy. "Cause it's not going to stop. I'm going to keep trying and trying and trying until I get justice served for my grandson."

RELATED: Jason Van Dyke trial, Laquan McDonald shooting timeline

The shooting death of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke is a story with ripple effects beyond the court case that follows.

Protesters tried to deliver a letter to U.S. Attorney John Lausch demanding federal civil rights charges be brought against Van Dyke. They were unable to meet with Lausch and met an executive aide instead.

Asked if Van Dyke could face federal charges, ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said, "Double jeopardy doesn't attach when you have the federal government trying to prosecute something that the state already prosecuted.

"They are two separate sovereigns. They are two separate governments and if the federal government chooses to prosecute for civil rights violations and if it concludes that the evidence is there, they can do it."

State's Attorney Kim Foxx issued a statement Thursday reiterating comments she made during a Tuesday press conference.

"Laquan McDonald's life mattered. The fact of the matter is, Jason Van Dyke was convicted for murder and also convicted 16 times for aggravated battery with a firearm," Foxx said. "Those 16 counts would warrant a far greater sentence than was meted out to Jason Van Dyke. That three-and-a-half year sentence that Jason Van Dyke was handed down did not fit the 16 shots to the body as that boy laid on the ground."

Foxx said Tuesday that "if there's an ability to do something about it on the federal level then by all means something should be done."

Mayor Lori Lightfoot also issued a statement Thursday morning saying, ""I know some Chicagoans remain disheartened and angry about Jason Van Dyke's sentence for the murder of Laquan McDonald. As I said at the time, 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. 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. He was the first officer in more than half a century to be convicted of a crime committed purportedly in the line of duty. This prosecution led to historic reforms, including comprehensive legislation that created the first-ever community police oversight body in Chicago, and a consent decree to oversee CPD reform. There is much more work to do, and it is by doing that work that we can heal from this and move forward towards justice and accountability every day."