Chicago officer guilty of murder held at Rock Island County Jail

Published: Oct. 5, 2018 at 2:49 PM CDT
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UPDATE 10/9: The Chicago officer who was found guilty of murder is being held at the Rock Island County Jail.

Jason Van Dyke is being held out of the jail’s general population.

The Rock Island County Jail is approximately 3 hours west of Chicago.

“Jason Van Dyke was transferred for his safety, and for the stability of the jail compound,” said Cara Smith, policy director for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Smith said Van Dyke, who was convicted of 2nd-degree murder last Friday, spent the weekend in Cermak Hospital.

Smith told NBC5 detainees from the jail will usually be transferred for one of three reasons: either they have assaulted a member of the jail staff, they are cooperating with prosecutors on a pending case, or are a high-profile defendant for whom more security is deemed appropriate. Van Dyke falls into that third category.

The former officer is scheduled to be sentenced October 31.

ORIGINAL: The white Chicago police officer who shot a black teenager 16 times was convicted of murder Friday in a case that ignited protests throughout the city.

A jury took barely 24 hours to find Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder for the fatal October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, 17.

Upon hearing the guilty verdict, crowds outside the courthouse erupted in cheers. Jumping up and down and hugging one another, they chanted, "Justice for Laquan! Justice for Laquan!" Cars honked as they passed by the courthouse and passengers cheered.

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Van Dyke was found guilty of 16 counts of aggravated battery. Jurors found him not guilty of official misconduct.

Van Dyke faced charges of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and official misconduct after killing McDonald when responding to a report of someone breaking into vehicles. Jurors were permitted to also consider second-degree murder.

Van Dyke listened silently as the verdict was read, taking a swig from a water bottle at one point. After the verdict, Van Dyke, whose bond was immediately revoked, was taken into custody.

The deadly encounter unfolded when officers came upon McDonald, who had a knife, and called for an officer with a Taser to respond to the scene. Before that officer could arrive, Van Dyke opened fire and shot McDonald.

Dashcam footage of the shooting released a year later showed McDonald walking away from the officers when Van Dyke opened fire and continued to shoot at the teen, even when he was already on the ground. The video unleashed a series of mass protests and citywide unrest.

Officials in Chicago had braced for potential unrest after the verdict, especially if jurors found Van Dyke not guilty. Some schools made plans for early dismissals, lockdowns or recess indoors, reported the Chicago Tribune.

"This is an emotional time for our city, and many activists are calling for people to take to the streets regardless of the outcome of the trial," wrote Principal Brianna Latko of St. Ignatius College Prep, a private school in downtown Chicago, in a letter, according to the newspaper. "Should this occur, it may create potentially dangerous situations around the city."

Some in Chicago seemed stunned by the guilty verdict.

"This is justice, this is justice," said Steve Rogers, who had gone to the courthouse to hear the verdict. "I didn't think it was going to happen."

Van Dyke had taken the stand in his own defense in a dramatic courtroom moment Tuesday, where he said McDonald was "advancing" toward him and would not drop the knife he was holding.

"He got right about 10 to 15 feet away from me," Van Dyke said in his testimony, his eyes filling with tears.

"We never lost eye contact, his eyes were bugging out, his face was just expressionless," Van Dyke said. "He turned his torso towards me. He waved the knife from his lower right side upwards across his body towards my left shoulder."

"I shot him," he said.

The prosecution quickly countered that Van Dyke's account was not corroborated by video evidence of the shooting.

In their closing arguments, the prosecution said Van Dyke could have taken many other actions, but in the end chose to use deadly force without justification.

They also said he had exaggerated McDonald's actions that night to justify the fatal shooting.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Dan Herbert had argued that Van Dyke was justified in his use of force and the death was a "tragedy, but not a murder."

"It's a tragedy that could have been prevented with one simple step," he said. "At any point throughout that 20-some-minute rampage, had Laquan McDonald dropped that knife, he'd be here today."

Herbert added that the video evidence did not show the full picture of the night's events.

"It shows a perspective, but not the right perspective," he said.

The shooting sparked a probe from the Justice Department that found deep-rooted systemic civil rights violations by Chicago's police department and prompted the release of a plan with far-reaching police reforms.

One current and two former Chicago police officers were charged last June with state felony counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct for allegedly helping to cover up for Van Dyke.

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