Jason Van Dyke's attorneys and family are calling for answers after they say the former Chicago police officer convicted in the murder of Laquan McDonald had his safety "compromised" when he was placed in general population at a federal facility just hours before he was attacked.
"He was led like a lamb to slaughter," said one of his attorneys Tammy Wendt, who said she was notified of the attack by a confidential employee at the facility in Connecticut.
Van Dyke's attorneys said the former Chicago officer was transferred on Feb. 5 from an Illinois state prison to a federal prison in Danbury, Conn. His attorneys said they and Van Dyke's family did not find out about the transfer until after it occurred and do not know why he was transferred.
Van Dyke told his lawyers Tuesday that he had been "beaten up by other inmates four hours after arriving at the new prison," his attorneys said in a statement. "He said he had been put in the general population and he was attacked in his cell."
"This man has been sentenced. He is allowed to be safe in prison," attorney Dan Herbert told reporters in a press conference Thursday. "The mentality out there seems to be that people won't rest until he is either given a life sentence or killed in prison, and that's extremely unfortunate."
Citing an anonymous call from an employee at the Connecticut prison, Van Dyke's attorneys said he suffered bruising and injuries to his face and head.
"This is a race issue. This is a gigantic race issue," said his wife Tiffany Van Dyke. "They put my husband in a setting to be harmed because of the fact that he is a white man who harmed a black gentleman in the line of duty."
"I’m demanding reasons," she added. "I’m demanding answers as to why they took my husband from a state facility and put him in a federal facility. My husband did not have federal charges."
In October, Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald. He was sentenced to 81 months in prison in January.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Kane County State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor in Van Dyke's trial, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, asking the Illinois Supreme Court to review whether Van Dyke's 81-month prison sentence was "proper under the law” earlier this week.
Van Dyke's wife said she has been unable to speak to her husband or see him since the move. She said he is now "segregated" at the prison and on a 23-hour daily lockdown.
"The next time this could happen they could kill him. I cannot bury my husband," Tiffany Van Dyke said.