Disgraced former Chicago Police Officer, Jason Van Dyke will not face federal charges in the murder of 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald. In 2014, Van Dyke shot LaQuan McDonald 16 times and was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in 2018. Sentenced to 81 months in prison, Van Dyke served less than half of his sentence and was released in February 2022.
His early release prompted protests by activists already upset at the light sentence Van Dyke received after his conviction. The US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois issued a release saying, “Today, John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, announced that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will not pursue a successive prosecution of Mr. Van Dyke on federal criminal charges. The decision not to pursue a federal prosecution is consistent with Department of Justice policy and was made in consultation with Mr. McDonald’s family. U.S. Attorney Lausch has spoken with a representative of Mr. McDonald’s family on multiple occasions over the past three years, including recently, to discuss the factors the Department of Justice considers when deciding to bring a second prosecution. The family was in agreement not to pursue a second prosecution, and the Office respects their position.”
Illinois 7th Congressional Candidate and activist, Kina Collins called the ruling “disgusting” saying in a statement, “So 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. 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. She continued, “And let me say this to every elected official in Chicago and across the country: If you believe Black lives matter, now is the time to prove it and call on Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department to do their jobs and bring federal charges against Van Dyke. The buck doesn’t stop at a U.S. Attorney who refuses to do his job.”
The US Attorney’s office also said, prosecuting him would have been more difficult because the burden of proof was harder saying, “Prosecutors would have to prove not only that Mr. Van Dyke acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids, but also that his actions were not the result of 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 federal law presents a very high bar – more stringent than the state charges on which Mr. Van Dyke was convicted.”
While the US attorney’s office stated that the McDonald family agreed not to pursue a second prosecution, the family nor representatives from Van Dyke have made any public comment.