By Erick Johnson
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder Friday, October 4 by a jury at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse, ending decades of frustration in Chicago’s Black community and marking a significant turning point involving police misconduct in the police department’s notorious history.
Van Dyke was also found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, but on the count of police misconduct, he was found not guilty.
In a packed courtroom filled with Black activists and clergy jurors decided that Van Dyke was unjustified in using deadly force when he shot teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 14, 2014.
Wearing a black suit, Van Dyke was stoic as he learned his fate while the verdict was read. He faces life in prison. His wife, Tiffany, also remained stoic as she listened to the verdict.
Van Dyke’s sentencing will be October 31, 2018. Judge Vincent Gaughan revoked Van Dyke’s bond and the officer was jailed after the verdict was announced.
The unanimous verdict was made by a 12-member jury that included just one Black person seven whites, three Hispanics and one Asian. They listened to weeks of testimonies that included at least 40 witnesses.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition held a press conference at 4:30 p.m. at Rev. Marvin Hunter’s church today to express their opinion on the verdict.
Throngs of television media and print outlets from all over the world were positioned on the first floor of the courthouse to wait for the stunning verdict that came just one day after both sides ended their closing arguments in a high-profile case that has had Chicago on edge as the proceedings drew to a close.
“I think it was a just verdict. We wanted a first-degree murder—we got a second degree, but the verdict was fair,” said Reverend Janette Wilson, Senior Advisor to Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
The Crusader will continue to update this story throughout the day.
Interview with Activist Ja’Mal Green
“This is a step in the right direction. We fought hard for this,” said Activist Ja’Mal Green.
Green said he read the Crusader’s investigative story that broke this week showing eight Black Aldermen took campaign money from the mayor more than a month before he was re-elected and the City Council signed off on a $5 million settlement to the estate of LaQuan McDonald.
“Same old corruption going on in this city.” Green said, “We have eight Black Alderman who took money from a mayor as he covered up the brutal death of a teenager. We are demanding their resignation and we will make sure they will be swept out in next year’s election. They have no morals, courage, and no backbone to do something like this.”
Van Dyke was the central figure and the latest person to fall in a scandal that has claimed the careers of Cook County States’ Attorney Anita Alvarez, former Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who announced at the start of the trial that he will not seek re-election to a third term.
Outside the courthouse, about 50 protesters cheered the verdict, hailing it as a major victory in ending police misconduct that has frustrated Black leaders and haunted residents for decades.
“Justice for LaQuan” they shouted as dozens of Chicago Police officers blocked the entrance to the courthouse.
Reverend Marvin Hunter, great uncle leaves the courthouse after Officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder.
Legal victory for LaQuan McDonald family, but not for others
The verdict was a rebuke to a police department whose officers had escaped prosecution for years as distrust and frustrations in the Black community deepened over the years. Last summer, Officer Robert Rialmo avoiding paying a $1 million settlement awarded the family of Quintonio LeGrier after a jury told the judge that the officer feared for his life after they announced the award amount.
In 2015, Rialmo killed the teenager and 55-year-old Bettie Jones after responding to a 911 call. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office decided not to bring charges against him saying the officer was justified in using deadly force, but a ruling from the Chicago Police Board disagreed.
In 2016, a Cook County judge acquitted officer Dante Servin for the killing of Rekia Boyd, who died after Servin fired shots into a crowd in March 2014. The judge ruled that Servin should have been charged with first degree murder instead of second degree murder.
COMMENTS AND STATEMENTS ON THE JASON VAN DYKE VERDICT
Today, U.S. Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) released the following statement on the conviction of Jason Van Dyke:
Mayoral Candidate Toni Preckwinkle released the following statement on Jason Van Dyke’s Guilty Verdict:
While nothing can make up for the senseless loss of young life, I am grateful that there is some justice for LaQuan McDonald. Like many, I saw the video and it was devastating. My heart goes out to his family and friends.
This is an important indictment not only of the actions of an individual but of the code of silence within the police department. We cannot have safe communities if we do not have police force accountable to all communities.
JB Pritzker and Juliana Stratton Release Joint Statement on Laquan McDonald Trial
Today, JB Pritzker and Juliana Stratton released the following joint statement on the guilty verdict in the Laquan McDonald case:
“Today, Jason Van Dyke was held accountable for his role in the tragic death of Laquan McDonald and justice was finally served for him and for his family, who have already endured so much during this difficult time,” said JB Pritzker and Juliana Stratton. “While there is still so much work to do, we believe this verdict represents an important step — one of many — towards fostering an environment of respect and accountability between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
SEIU Healthcare Illinois President Greg Kelley releasesd the following statement on the Jason Van Dyke verdict:
“The guilty verdict delivered in the case of police officer Jason Van Dyke doesn’t assuage the deep distrust the Black community has in the criminal justice system and lack of police accountability, but it is a big step in the right direction.
“The city breathed a collective sigh of relief with delivery of the verdict. The murder of Laquan McDonald and the Van Dyke trial poured salt on festering wounds of the Black community caused by decades of city neglect, police brutality and economic divestment.
“For too many, it seemed like Laquan was on trial rather than the officer who shot him 16 times. For too many, it was the same old script with different characters. Now, perhaps, city leaders will gather the courage to address the real issues that keep the city divided.
“This is an opportunity for a mayoral candidate to distinguish himself or herself as a serious agent of change who will not be afraid to raise the issues of divestment from communities of color, lack of opportunities, gentrification and racism.
“We all want to live in a city that is equitable and just. We all want communities that thrive. We must challenge our anger into efforts to unite across our communities to achieve the change we seek.
“The tragic murder of Laquan McDonald — a young man who faced the same personal and external challenges that many young Black men growing up in depressed neighborhoods face — and the conviction of the officer who killed him may be the spark of change so badly needed in this city.
“Let’s hope so.”
Black Caucus on Van Dyke verdict: We still have a lot of work ahead
Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) released the following statement following a guilty verdict in the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
“My heart goes out to Laquan’s family as they continue to grieve his loss. This is only a drop of justice in a history full of injustices against Black people and people of color. We still have a lot of work ahead of us in reforming policing, criminal justice, human services and creating opportunities for underprivileged communities.
“Let us continue to organize, continue to let our voices be heard and participate in our democracy wherever and whenever we can.”
UNITED WORKING FAMILIES STATEMENT: Van Dyke verdict is just the tip of the iceberg
Following is the statement of Emma Tai, Executive Director of United Working Families (UWF), on today’s conviction of Jason Van Dyke for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald:
“Today’s verdict is just the tip of the iceberg. From the day he was born to the night he was killed, Laquan McDonald was set up for tragedy by the architects of Chicago’s rigged and racist economy.
“Laquan grew up in a Chicago neighborhood where nearly half of all young black men are out of school and out of work. Without sufficient funding for counselors and special education aides, the public education system resorted to suspensions and expulsions that pushed him out of school and onto the streets.
“These conditions are not inevitable. They are the result of conscious decisions by the political ruling class to systematically starve Black people of the public services and infrastructure we all need to live safe and healthy lives.
“Jason Van Dyke murdered Laquan McDonald, and the jury was right to convict him today. But only wholesale political change–including voting out the City Council members who colluded with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to cover up the shooting–will change the tragic conditions that resulted in his death.”
United Working Families is an independent political organization by and for the 99%. UWF affiliate members include: Action Now, Chicago Teachers Union, Cook County College Teachers Union, Grassroots Illinois Action, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana, Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee, United Electrical Workers Western Region, Illinois Nurses Association, People United for Action, Workers United CMRJB, 22nd Ward IPO, 25th Ward IPO, and 33rd Ward Working Families.
Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer (2nd District) and Alderman Michael Scott Jr. (24th Ward) to bring Solidarity in Van Dyke Trial
On Friday, October 5, 2018, Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer and Ald. Michael Scott Jr. release the following statement as the jury in the Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke trial deliberates their decision in the 2014 shooting of LaquanMcDonald.
“As a leader in the Westside community and Southside which consist of Lawndale and Englewood I want to make it clear of how important this trial is to the community that directly affects the 2nd District, our city and state,” Commissioner Dennis Deer states.
It has been nearly 50 years that a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder and justice must be served in Chicago and across our country.
“The Commissioner and I stand in solidarity with our community. We urge everyone to demonstrate peacefully regardless of the verdict,” Alderman Scott states.
Our hope is that we take this time to come together from all across the city, county, and state that all police officers that work within our communities treat our communities fairly and justice is served.
Chicago Urban League Statement on LaQuan McDonald verdict from Barbara Lumpkin, Interim President & CEO, Chicago Urban League
“Laquan McDonald’s family and much of the city of Chicago have waited for nearly three years hoping to see justice served. While many of us who watched that disturbing and unforgettable video believed that a first-degree murder conviction would be a reasonable outcome, the jury found Officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and among other charges. The fact that the jury delivered a verdict that finally sends a message that no one—not even a police officer—is above the law is significant.
Jones: Van Dyke verdict good first step, more work to do
State Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) released the following statement in response to the verdict in the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald:
“I am relieved that justice was served for Laquan’s family,” said Jones. “We have seen too many black men and women killed at the hands of police with little more than a slap on the wrist.
“The time is now for everyone, including our law enforcement officers, to realize that black lives do matter.
“The verdict was a good first step, but we still have more work to do. We will continue to fight to ensure our criminal justice system equally serves everyone.”
Raoul on Van Dyke verdict: Justice has been done; the healing and the work go on
Kwame Raoul, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, issued the following statement on today’s verdict in the trial of Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald:
“Justice was done today, as a jury of his peers held Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald. Our criminal justice system has done its job, but the work of healing and reform is just beginning. While this verdict was about one incident within one city’s police department, it has shed light throughout the state and throughout the country on the need to focus on law enforcement reform. The work towards that end does not stop with this verdict, nor with the consent decree that this case brought about. I appeal to communities throughout the city and state to come together towards improved safety, accountability and mutual respect.”
State Senator Jacqueline Collins issued the following statement after today’s decision in the Laquan McDonald case:
“Our voices must not die away.”
SPRINGFIELD – “We commend the jurors for fulfilling their civic duty in rendering what I feel was a reasonable verdict albeit not exactly what the community was hoping for. I want to congratulate all the activists, journalists and faith leaders for keeping this issue in the public arena,” Collins said.
“The conviction of Jason Van Dyke lays bare the injustices executed by the Chicago Police Department, and frequently abetted by the criminal justice system. In this case, there was a cover-up, and everyone involved should be held accountable. If we do not tear down the blue curtain of silence once and for all, the Laquan McDonalds of Chicago will continue to die in our city. We must never forget that the video – and the truth – were not simply handed to us. Instead, they were ripped from reluctant hands by journalists, citizens and the courts.
“Four years ago, I protested and pleaded for top-to-bottom change. I was immensely proud of all who protested peacefully in Chicago. I was honored to march alongside young people and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement alike on Michigan Avenue.
“Four years later, I urge all Chicagoans to remember that this is one terrible tragedy that is a symptom of a system in dire need of change. We must not stand by while police officers act as judge, jury and executioner on our streets. We will remain united for justice.
“Today shows that Officer Van Dyke’s gun and badge cannot speak louder than Laquan McDonald’s blood. No one is above the law. Our voices must not die away!”
Hunter: More work to be done on police-community relations after Van Dyke verdict
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago 3rd) issued the following statement after police officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second degree murder in the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald:
“I know I join many of you in breathing a sigh of relief that the officer who murdered Laquan McDonald four years ago was brought to justice today.
Nothing can take away the pain his family feels, and my deepest sympathies are with them.
Justice may have prevailed today, but we still have much work to do in improving the damaged relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
In the coming days and weeks, please be thoughtful about the small acts of peace and progress you can make. And I encourage you to sit down with your family, friends and community members and have conversations about how to improve the relationship between law enforcement officers and citizens of Chicago.”
Alderman Anthony A. Beale statement on VanDyke Guilty Verdict
I am pleased that justice has been served and Officer Van Dyke will face the consequences of his actions. However, today’s verdict remains a bittersweet reminder of all the young lives that have ended at the hands of those who by the color of their skin or status have too often gone free.
Hopefully this verdict is not an anomaly but marks the beginning of a new era for our city, one in which the casual killing of people of color, of young black and brown men or those with mental or physical challenges is no longer acceptable. We have an opportunity to create a new template for action to address police accountability and implement the reforms that are so desperately needed. The time to do it is now!
Congresswoman Kelly statement on the verdict reached in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald
Congresswoman Robin Kelly, a member of the bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, released this statement on the verdict reached in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald:
“Today, justice was served. While no verdict can bring Laquan McDonald back to his family and friends, we have seen that justice can be delivered to victims and their families.
The process by which this case was brought forward and executed should be an example to other communities around this country. Far too often, the murders of young black men and women by law enforcement make headlines but never make it to a jury trial. This must change.
Many of my family members are in law enforcement and I know the great responsibility and sacrifice that comes with wearing the badge. But that doesn’t mean we should grant automatic deference to law enforcement in deadly force cases. This case must be a catalyst for real reforms at CPD and other police forces around the country.
As a member of bipartisan Policing Strategies Working Group, I remain committed to working toward changing policies and rebuilding the fractured trust that exists between communities and law enforcement because of cases like this.”
Candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago, Dorothy Brown, asks for Chicagoans to remain level headed after the verdict in her following statement:
“As Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, it is incumbent on me to maintain the integrity of my office as it relates to all cases coming before the Circuit Court of Cook County. However, as a leader and resident who cares deeply about Chicago, I urge all Chicagoans to remain level headed and respectful of all our fellow citizens, as the city of Chicago processes the verdict in the case of the People vs. Jason Van Dyke.”
State of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s Statement in response to the Van Dyke Verdict
Today our legal system did its job. A jury rendered a verdict that held Officer Jason Van Dyke accountable for the murder of Laquan McDonald.
The tragic events of that fateful night tore our City apart. Yet even in its darkest moments, Chicago, a city of grit and resolve, of faith and family, has shown its ability to come together, heal its broken heart, and move itself forward. We need each other today, more than ever before; to stand together as one family, all of us, and work to heal our great City.
Now is the time for us to focus on rebuilding the trust between police and communities, which has been broken for decades.
Lastly I want to express my sincere condolences to the family of Laquan McDonald and hope that today’s verdict can help bring them some peace and justice.
STATEMENT OF BILL DALEY IN RESPONSE TO VAN DYKE VERDICT
“This brings to an end a tragic, painful episode in our history but must also mark a new beginning for our city. This is a moment when all of Chicago needs to come together, work to rebuild trust between the community and police and re-commit to making every neighborhood safer and stronger.”
Van Pelt calls for productive reaction to McDonald verdict
State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) released the following statement today as the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald has ended with verdicts of guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm:
“I will continue to pray for the McDonald family as I have since Laquan was taken from them. The verdict will not bring Laquan back or undo this tragedy.
“The jury’s verdict simply makes a statement about the long journey ahead of us to repair and improve relations between our police and our community.
“We need to continue to work to address and end the painful history of police shootings in our city, particularly in the black community and my West Side district.
“I pray that my brothers and sisters will respond peacefully and productively to this news. Relief and frustration are natural and can be expressed constructively. We need to keep moving forward with positive action and peace. As a lawmaker, I remain committed to our role in reforming criminal justice and our many ills that keep young African Americans away from long, fulfilling lives.”
Black Caucus Chair Ald. Sawyer responds to Van Dyke verdict
Following is a statement from Chicago City Council Black Caucus Chair Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer (6th Ward) in response to today’s verdict in the trial of Jason Van Dyke:
“The death of Laquan McDonald was a wrenching tragedy that has rocked our city to its core. We pray for peace for the McDonald family, and long remained hopeful that they would find true justice through this process. But the truth is, no matter how this verdict came down, the McDonald family lost a son that they can never get back.
“Still, the black community today can find some relief. It appears Jason Van Dyke will be held accountable for his violence.
“Now, we must all recommit ourselves to seeking transformational change to the way policing is done in our city. We must focus now more than ever on demanding the police accountability mechanisms that experts from the Police Accountability Task Force and the Obama Justice Department beseeched the Emanuel administration to implement. And we must continue to reckon with the fact laid bare to us all over and over again since the day the news of LaquanMcDonald’s death first broke–that Chicago continues to be plagued by deep inequities and systemic racism. Until we address that underlying reality, the conditions that led to Laquan McDonald’s death will not change.”
At last, a measure of justice for Laquan
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey released the following statement today in response to the verdict in the murder trial of Jason Van Dyke.
“Laquan McDonald was our student. He could have been a senior in a Chicago public high school when he was gunned down nearly four years ago to the day in one of the most shocking instances of brutality in the history of our city.
“Our members taught him, and he was a child of the communities in which they live. He was raised on streets covered in the blood of the generations before him who’ve been bludgeoned by economic, social and racial injustice. He deserved justice, and today’s verdict shows that the jury recognized his humanity and the tragedy that befell him.
“Our city, however, is still suffering, and reeling from the tenure of a mayor who systematically closed schools, used public dollars to pay police settlements and ultimately covered up Laquan’s murder for political and capital interests. Emanuel spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees to block the release of the dashboard camera video of Laquan’s murder until a judge ruled in November of 2015—nearly 400 days after the shooting and after he won re-election—that the mayor’s actions violated the Illinois open records laws and ordered that the video be released to the public.
“We must build on this opportunity to come to grips with Rahm’s tale of two cities—one city that supports the elites and the politicians they bankroll, and another city that failed Laquan, just as it fails hundreds of thousands of Black and Brown students and their families every day. Laquan deserved first-rate early childhood programming. He deserved the opportunity to attend schools with rigorous wraparound services and supports. Instead, Rahm and his allies support an apartheid-like school district run by a handpicked Board of Education that has long neglected poor and working class Black and Brown children, and as evident in recent years, has systematically driven students and their families from the city. And this failure extends to every arena of life in Chicago, from who gets policed, to who receives mental health care, to who collects public dollars for affordable housing.
“With Rahm gone, the people of this city have the opportunity to write a new narrative and build a new Chicago that is safe for minority and working class families. We need accountability and transparency through truly representative, democratically elected bodies. We need to value the lives of all Black and Brown people in the memory of those who were ruthlessly taken from us, like Laquan, Harith Augustus, Rekia Boyd, Dakota Bright, Flint Farmer, Bettie Jones, Quintonio LeGrier and Freddie Wilson. Remember these names, and remember that we need one city, with equity and dignity for everyone.
“Chicago must take this opportunity to heal from Rahm’s legacy of trauma and finally become a city that is built around equality and justice for all.”
Van Dyke Verdict Is Step Toward Police Accountability
WASHINGTON – Lynda Garcia, policing campaign director for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald:
“This jury verdict is a critical step toward restoring community trust. Chicago’s police department has a history of not holding officers accountable for discriminatory and biased policing. It is time for an overhaul of the department’s policies and practices to avoid another senseless death. We commend the prosecutors for bringing this case forward and the jury for considering all of the facts. Law enforcement officers must be held to a high standard if they are truly to protect and serve all people. Although this verdict will not bring their son back, our thoughts are with the McDonald family who saw justice served today.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.
“There are people out there saying they’re afraid of a riot if Van Dyke is found not guilty. Now I ain’t advocating anything, but let me tell you, I ain’t scared of what they call a riot. I’m scared of the quiet. I’m afraid that people will passively accept a not guilty verdict in this case which will be the system giving a green light to their enforcers to continue to brutalize and murder Black and Brown people with impunity. A declaration that they feel they can do anything to us and that we have to just take it. Them doing that would be intolerable, and we must not tolerate the intolerable. So if they free that cop, Chicago must STOP!”