The grandmother of a Black teenager who was murdered in a hail of bullets said the police officer who was convicted for the killing would still be in jail if he wasn’t white.
Instead, Jason Van Dyke, who in 2014 shot Laquan McDonald 16 times in about 15 seconds despite the 17-year-old not posing any immediate threat, was officially released from prison on Thursday after serving less than half of his sentence for convictions of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. The former Chicago police officer served slightly more than three years of his already lenient 6.75-year prison sentence. He was reportedly a free man by about 10 a.m. local time on Thursday.
MORE: From Fred Hampton To Laquan McDonald: Why We Should Always Question The Chicago PD
His release was met with an increasing outcry, perhaps none louder than from McDonald’s family.
His grandmother said Van Dyke’s race played a major role in his freedom for a crime that she said should have not only carried more prison time but also should have prompted federal charges.
“I just want this man to get the rightful time he [was] supposed to got in the first place,” Tracey Hunter told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
Then Hunter, whose daughter is McDonald’s mother, stated the obvious that still needed to be said: “If a Black man happened to kill a white police officer, he would’ve got his rightful time.”
Van Dyke isn’t completely free, as he will be on probation for the next three years until the expiration of his actual sentence. However, he is not behind bars and is free to possibly capitalize monetarily off the media attention.
Hunter placed at least some of the blame for Van Dyke’s freedom on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was not working in City Hall when McDonald was murdered. Rahm Emanuel was mayor during that time, but he subsequently appointed Lightfoot to lead the Chicago Police Board and made her the chairperson of the city’s police accountability task force. Both moves were reportedly made in response to McDonald’s murder.
“She lied about everything,” Hunter, McDonald’s grandmother, said about Lightfoot. “She’s not fit to be a mayor.”
Van Dyke was paroled for “good behavior” despite the murderous (read: bad) behavior that landed him in prison in the first place.
McDonald’s great uncle previously expressed optimism surrounding Van Dyke’s early release.
“I’m hoping he’s learned the errors of his ways,” Laquan’s great uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, said when the former cop’s early release was first reported last month. “I have always asked for justice and not revenge. We got as much justice you could get with the players that were there at the time he was on trial.”
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