The white Chicago officer responsible for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald is likely to be released next month after serving less than half of his three-year sentence.
Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted in October 2018, will be released from jail on February 3. According to Kahalah Clay, chief legal counsel for the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, she is uncertain where Van Dyke’s is being held.
Over the weekend, McDonald’s great uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, told media outlets that officials had informed him of Van Dyke’s imminent release.
“I’m hoping he’s learned the errors of his ways. I have always asked for justice and not revenge,” Hunter told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We got as much justice you could get with the players that were there at the time he was on trial.”
Some community activists were outraged by Van Dyke’s release after 39 months in prison, and around a dozen of them protested at a railway station on Chicago’s South Side.
Just a year after the 2014 shooting, massive protests broke out in Chicago when a judge ordered the city to release the police video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, most of them while he lay on the ground.
Several people were removed from office when the videos were released, including the police superintendent, the chief prosecutor, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who opted not to run for re-election.
When Van Dyke resigned from the Chicago Police Department, he waited until he was in prison, ahead of formal termination proceedings before the Chicago Police Board.
The horrific footage triggered a nationwide debate about how law enforcement treats people of color and led to many police department reforms. The footage was revived several times after other African Americans, notably George Floyd in Minneapolis, was killed by the police.
In January 2019, Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated violence – one for each bullet he fired at the teenager.
Van Dyke, 43, attempted to overturn his conviction but gave up in 2020. Because of his exemplary behavior, he was eligible to have his sentence reduced by half.
He was transferred from a Cook County jail to a county jail near the Illinois-Iowa border and from the Illinois Department of Corrections to a federal facility in Connecticut during his term behind bars. His attorneys claimed at the time that he was assaulted by fellow inmates there.
Lindsey Hess, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said on Tuesday that Van Dyke is still under the department’s control but is being imprisoned in another state. Hess said the department will not identify where Van Dyke is being held because of “safety and security purposes.”