What's Happened Since Jason Van Dyke Was Sentenced For Murder of Laquan McDonald

When he was sentenced, Jason Van Dyke received only 81 months, a little less than seven years behind bars, which would amount to a little more than three years with good behavior and time served.

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The 16 shots were heard around the world. Before George Floyd and Derek Chauvin, the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of a Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, outraged communities and sparked protests.

In 2019, Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison for fatally shooting the Chicago teenager 16 times. He became the first Chicago police officer ever convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting.

The murder conviction and 16 aggravated battery convictions were enough to warrant a possible 20 years in prison for the white, former officer. But when he was sentenced, Van Dyke received only 81 months, a little less than seven years behind bars, which would amount to a little more than three years with good behavior and time served.

On Thursday, he was released from prison.

With less than a day to go until Jason Van Dyke is set to be released, family members of Laquan McDonald are stepping up their calls for new charges against him. NBC 5's Charlie Wojciechowski reports.

Community members publicly disagreed with Van Dyke's sentence at the time, criticizing it for not fitting the crime.

"We're heartbroken, but we're not deterred, we're not giving up," said activist William Calloway after court last year. "We don't agree with the judge's ruling at all. We feel that what Jason Van Dyke did when shooting Laquan 16 times, he deserves to spend the rest of his life behind bars."

The Illinois Supreme Court denied a motion from the attorney general and the special prosecutor for a resentencing.

Since then, both Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy have stepped down or been fired, in part, for the roles they played or failed to play in the McDonald investigation.

A year after the sentencing, Van Dyke's attorney, Dan Herbert, told NBC 5 in 2020 that there was never a question that his client would be found guilty of the murder but rather how much time he would spend behind bars and what impact the verdict would have on Chicago.

"As far as this jury was concerned," Herbert said, "it was predetermined what their outcome was going to be. There was such a fear out in the public about this."

Van Dyke had served his time at a variety of prisons including one in Rock Island, Illinois.

A little more than a month after he was sentenced, he was beaten by other prisoners while in custody at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.

"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 told his lawyers 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."

Van Dyke was then moved around the federal prison system for what corrections officials say are security reasons.

But now, as Van Dyke is released from custody, there are new calls for federal charges that would put him back in jail, something his family has said previously they would fight.

"It sickens me that they want to put more time on my husband," Tiffany Van Dyke said. "It absolutely frustrates and sickens me."

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Bobby Rush have called upon U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to pursue federal charges against the former Van Dyke.

Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer convicted of killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, is set to be released from prison Thursday, prompting activists to call for protests and a federal investigation. NBC 5's Mary Ann Ahern reports.

Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth have requested an update on the Justice Department investigation of the 2014 killing, which sparked outrage after it was revealed to the public.

The nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP, sent a letter to the attorney general saying the minimum Van Dyke should be charged with is a federal civil rights violation.

Law professor Harold Krent said federal charges are not uncommon when local courts fail to act.

"It is a message to the system that somehow Van Dyke seemed to get off with a much more lenient sentence than would be appropriate given the heinous character of his crime," Krent said.

Activists and members of McDonald’s family agree, saying three years has not been enough time behind bars for a crime that has so deeply injured a community.

Tracy Hunter vowed to fight for new charges until Van Dyke is back behind bars.

"He gets to go home to his family and see his kids," she said. "I can’t do that because my grandson is gone."

Krent said even if new charges are brought, it is unlikely Van Dyke will remain in jail. He said it is typical for a federal judge to allow a defendant to remain out on bond pending his new trial.

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