Chicago Ex-Cop Jason Van Dyke Won’t Face Federal Charges In Laquan McDonald Murder

A federal prosecutor has declined to bring charges against former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was convicted at the state level of murdering Black teen Laquan McDonald.

John Lausch, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced Monday that his office will not prosecute Van Dyke, who is white, on federal criminal charges. In a statement, the office said that the decision “is consistent with Department of Justice policy and was made in consultation with Mr. McDonald’s family.”

A jury convicted Van Dyke in 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery ― one for each bullet that Van Dyke fired at McDonald in October 2014. McDonald was 17.

Van Dyke was sentenced at the state level to 81 months in prison for the high-profile killing, and was released in February after serving less than half that time.

A growing number of voices had called for Lausch to charge Van Dyke, including grassroots activists and members of Congress. Five women and four men who call themselves the “Laquan Nine” were arrested and faced federal fines after protesting Van Dyke’s release outside the federal courthouse in Chicago.

William Calloway speaks during a Feb. 4 news conference with other community organizers, the day after their civil disobedience and arrests at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.
William Calloway speaks during a Feb. 4 news conference with other community organizers, the day after their civil disobedience and arrests at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.

Charles Rex Arbogast via Associated Press

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression published an open letter earlier this year calling on Lausch to bring charges against the former cop, saying the case “has been a travesty of justice through and through.” The letter was signed by advocacy organizations, as well as elected officials at the city and federal level, including Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.).

The statement from Lausch’s office says that federal prosecutors would have needed to prove to a jury beyond reasonable doubt that Van Dyke “acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids,” and that his actions were not due to “mistake, fear, negligence, or bad judgment.”

“It requires federal prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt what Mr. Van Dyke was thinking when he used deadly force, and that he knew such force was excessive,” the statement reads. “The federal law presents a very high bar ― more stringent than the state charges on which Mr. Van Dyke was convicted.”

CAARPR tweeted that activists will “continue to apply pressure” on Lausch, the Justice Department “and all the powers that be” until Van Dyke is federally prosecuted.

“Let me say this to U.S. Attorney John Lausch, because he clearly doesn’t understand: Sixteen bullets into Laquan’s body is a clear cut violation of his civil rights,” Kina Collins, a congressional candidate and one of the Laquan Nine, said in a statement to HuffPost. “A white officer shooting sixteen bullets into the body of a seventeen-year-old Black child — and then reloading his gun with more — warrants federal charges. End of discussion.”

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