Van Dyke protest

Demonstrators gather in front of the federal courthouse in Chicago on February 3, 2022 to protest the release of former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who served just over three years in prison for murdering Laquan McDonald. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Family Vows to 'Keep Fighting' for Federal Charges Against Cop Who Killed Laquan McDonald

"We are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Department of Justice to step up and properly charge Jason Van Dyke."

Relatives of Laquan McDonald and activists in Chicago made clear Thursday that they will continue to fight for federal civil rights charges against Jason Van Dyke, who murdered the Black teenager while working as a police officer.

"This is not--and should not be--how the justice system works."

McDonald's family and supporters held a press conference at the city's Federal Plaza in response to an announcement from the local U.S. attorney's office earlier this week that Van Dyke--who is white and was released early from prison in February--will not face any federal charges for the October 2014 murder.

"Monday's announcement from U.S. Attorney John Lausch is simply unacceptable," the family and activists said in a statement. "We wholeheartedly disagree with U.S. Attorney Lausch and his rationale for declining to bring federal charges against Jason Van Dyke. This isn't justice--and furthermore, it's certainly not what Laquan's family wanted."

As Common Dreamsreported, Lausch's office claimed its decision "is consistent with Department of Justice policy and was made in consultation with Mr. McDonald's family," which led to speculation that the U.S. attorney had spoken with McDonald's great-uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter, who said in February that he thought Van Dyke should have received a longer sentence but did not want him charged in federal court.

The statement from the family and activists continued:

We want to be clear that Rev. Marvin Hunter does not speak on behalf of Laquan's family. Rev. Hunter has no blood relation to Laquan or the McDonald family; he is not a spokesperson for the family. For U.S. Attorney Lausch to cite Rev. Hunter's wishes when announcing his decision to not charge Jason Van Dyke is wrong. This is not--and should not be--how the justice system works.

The facts of this case are simple and clear: Jason Van Dyke violated Laquan McDonald's civil rights when he shot 16 bullets into his body. Van Dyke was then convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Just as Derek Chauvin did two states away--and pled guilty to when he murdered George Floyd--Jason Van Dyke violated Laquan's civil rights. So, what makes this case different? The only answer we can think of is a U.S. attorney refusing to do his job.

Still, the fight does not end here. One bad decision from U.S. Attorney John Lausch does not change our demand for accountability. That still holds--and we'll keep fighting for it. The buck does not stop here. We are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the U.S. Department of Justice to step up and properly charge Jason Van Dyke.

McDonald's grandmother, Tracey Hunter, said in a statement Thursday that "every time it seems like we've taken a step forward, we get pushed two steps back."

"I have to live with this for the rest of my life," she added. "My first-born grandson was a typical Black kid, and he deserves justice the same way a billionaire's son would."

Block Club Chicagoreported that during the press conference, the 55-year-old expressed anger that she and the victim's mother were not contacted by Lausch's office about the decision, explaining that "nobody called my house but the newspapers and the TV people, and that's how I found out."

"I want justice. I want justice for my grandson, and I want justice now," she declared at Federal Plaza, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I want federal charges. John Lausch, if you're not going to do your job, you need to step down."

Kina Collins, a gun violence prevention activist who is running as a Democrat for Illinois' 7th Congressional District, also took aim at the U.S. attorney on Thursday.

"I want to be very clear to U.S. Attorney John Lausch: Do your job," said Collins. "When a police officer pumps 16 bullets into the body of a child, you have an obligation to press federal charges. The entire system failed Laquan McDonald. We have to hold the powers that be accountable, because our civil rights do not stop at a prosecutor's office door."

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