Chicago demonstrators rally outside DA’s office ahead of ex-cop Jason Van Dyke’s release from prison

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Chicago demonstrators rally outside DA’s office ahead of ex-cop Jason Van Dyke’s release from prison

[ad_1] Demonstrators in Chicago rallied outside the U.S. district attorney's office Tuesday afternoon calling for federal charges against a former C

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Demonstrators in Chicago rallied outside the U.S. district attorney’s office Tuesday afternoon calling for federal charges against a former Chicago police officer scheduled to be released from prison this week after serving time for fatally shooting Black teenager Laquan McDonald. 

Jason Van Dyke’s scheduled release on Thursday follows his nearly three-and-a-half-year prison sentence, less than half his state prison term of six years and nine months. He was convicted of murder in October 2018 in the killing of McDonald. 

FILE: Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke attends his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. 

FILE: Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke attends his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. 
(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Activist William Calloway, who helped get dashcam video released showing Van Dyke shoot McDonald, lead Tuesday’s protest, Chicago’s FOX 32 reported. 

The 2014 shooting prompted massive protests in Chicago after a judge forced the city to release video that showed Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. Many of the shots came when the 17-year-old was already on the ground. The police superintendent was subsequently fired, the county’s top prosecutor was voted out of office and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was widely criticized for his handling of the case, decided not to run for reelection.

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It was also a landmark case that illustrated the power of video. Van Dyke became the first Chicago police officer convicted of murder for an on-duty shooting in a half century.

Laquan McDonald, left, and Jason Van Dyke. 

Laquan McDonald, left, and Jason Van Dyke. 

The Justice Department opened a wide investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department after McDonald’s killing, which resulted in a blistering report that found Chicago officers routinely used excessive force and violated the rights of residents, particularly minorities. The agency also opened a federal probe into the shooting.

Activists have decried what they regard as too lenient of a sentence for Van Dyke, who they say got a series of lucky breaks over the course of his trial. 

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Also calling for federal charges to be brought against the former Chicago cop is the NAACP, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. On Tuesday, NAACP President Derrick Johnson urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to bring federal civil rights charges. 

“Given the egregious nature of his crime, the NAACP believes that at a minimum, the murderous officer should be charged with a federal civil rights violation under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 242 — Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law,” Johnson wrote in the letter to Garland.

Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and his attorney Daniel Herbert listen during Van Dyke's sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in Chicago.

Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke and his attorney Daniel Herbert listen during Van Dyke’s sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, in Chicago.
(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

Illinois’ two U.S. senators, Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, had been pressing the Justice Department for an update on the status of the federal investigation into the shooting. As recently as last week, the U.S. attorney’s office continued to decline comment, the senators wrote in a letter.

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To bring federal civil rights charges, federal prosecutors must prove that an officer’s actions willfully broke the law and were not simply the result of a mistake, negligence or bad judgment. It has been a consistently tough burden for federal prosecutors to meet across both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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