Ex-cop who killed a black teenager leaving prison: was it justice?


CHICAGO — Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke is due out of jail Thursday after being locked up for less than four years, and in the city that witnessed the first officer’s historic murder conviction for a shooting in Service in Half a Century, this publication is considered another chapter in a troubling history of race and policing.

Among many of them was hope that Van Dyke’s 2018 conviction for second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery signaled a desire to hold officers accountable. But the fact that he was released after serving about three years and four months of his six-year-and-nine-month sentence turned McDonald, and the others, into victims again.

“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.”

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 is not known if these accusations are coming. But what is clear is that Van Dyke’s release comes at a perilous time for the city and its police force. Chicago is seeing an increase in purple crime and recorded more homicides last year than any of them in the past quarter century and nearly double what was reported in 2014, l year Van Dyke killed McDonald. 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.

Certainly, the shooting of the black teenager by a white officer eventually led to a court-ordered consent decree that resulted in several reforms, including the creation of a civilian-led police oversight board and new rules governing investigations into police shootings. 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 reforms 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 in court over the release of the McDonald’s video, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration tried to stop a television station to release video of 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.

After watching the city fight to prevent the public from seeing video of McDonald’s murder, Hatch said he was hopeful when the jury found the officer guilty.

“I feel like the jury did their job,” he said. “Then the judge handed down such a lenient sentence.”

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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