Jason Van Dyke

Year After Van Dyke Sentence, Even His Family Doesn’t Know His Location

Looking back at the sentencing a year later, attorney Dan Herbert told NBC 5 on Friday 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 the the impact the verdict would have on Chicago.

Chicago Police Laquan McDonald
Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

Exactly a year ago, Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months in prison for fatally shooting Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. A year later, not even Van Dyke's family knows the state or federal prison the former Chicago police officer was sent to serve his time.

Van Dyke, convicted of second-degree murder in McDonald's death, was moved from a federal prison in New York in November, and authorities haven't said where he was transferred or the reason he was relocated.

The move marked at least the third time Van Dyke was transferred since his sentencing. He was jailed in the Quad Cities area and then moved to a federal prison in Connecticut. Then, amid concerns about his safety, he was moved to the Otisville prison.

Van Dyke's wife and attorneys raised concerns about his safety early last year after he was attacked in the federal facility in Connecticut hours after he was placed in general population.

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was beaten while in federal prison in Connecticut, and now his wife and attorney are demanding answers. NBC 5’s Charlie Wojciechowski has the latest. 

Looking back at the sentencing a year later, attorney Dan Herbert told NBC 5 on Friday 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 the the 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."

"At the end of the day, as I look back on it, i am really happy that we got the result that we got," he said. "I think, looking back, you realize just what an impossible situation it was."

Judge Vincent Gaughan sentences former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to 6 years and 9 months in prison for the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

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.”

McDonald's killing was captured on police cameras, sparking a national debate about race and the use of police force. The shooting later became the subject of the Showtime documentary, "16 Shots."

Herbert said the case fundamentally changed the Chicago Police Department.

"Where were changes that needed to be made in the police department the way that shootings were handled," he said. "I think that the training has gotten so much better. I think there is a focus, although i think not enough, on the mental health issues for police officers. Those are all good things and those were all relevant in this case."

Herbert warned, though, that cases like his could happen again as long as police as asked to use force to do this job of protecting the public.

"Regardless of what anybody thinks of the Van Dyke shooting, it looked horrible, but there were things that absolutely justified his decision to shoot," Herbert said, "and those are in the law and in training. The politicians and our leaders are the ones who created those laws and implemented that training and they didn’t take any ownership at all."

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