Demonstrators gather outside Chicago City Hall after the Van Dyke verdict. (WBBM Newsradio)

Van Dyke Verdict Reactions: From Jubilant To Grim

October 05, 2018 - 2:58 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Friday's guilty verdicts against Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the racially charged 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald generated waves of elation from activists and drew condemnations from the labor union that represents Chicago police officers.

A jury on Friday afternoon found Van Dyke, 40, of second-degree murder in McDonald's death and also guilty of aggravated battery charges, but acquitted him of official misconduct. This capped a two-week trial in which Van Dyke's defense argued the white officer was afraid for his life and lives of his comrades as they surrounded McDonald, a 17-year-old black teen who was carrying a knife, four years ago.

"I have never felt so happy in this city," activist Jedidiah Brown said outside the Leighton Criminal Courts Building, where the trial concluded. "This is the best moment as a Chicagoan that I've ever experienced in my life."

The city was braced for potential disturbances, but the guilty verdicts may have offset the scale and tone of protests. Dozens of people gathering outside Chicago City Hall on LaSalle Street to celebrate the jury's decision, surrounded by police officers. The group was later on the move, marching through the Loop.

In the South Shore neighborhood, a small group of activists was elated, but one speaker said the jury's verdict should have been first-degree murder. Activists also expressed anger at the alleged coverup by some of Van Dyke's police-officer peers. 

Police union officials were grim. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President Kevin Graham promised there would be an appeal and said the union stands with Van Dyke.

Van Dyke's defense attorney, Dan Herbert, said his client ended up being a "sacrificial lamb" in the politically charged case.

"He was sacrificed by his leaders, by political leaders, by our supposed community leaders and it was all for one reason -- to save themselves and sacrifice Jason Van Dyke," Herbert said.

The reaction was more blunt from the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police. State Lodge President Chris Southwood said police officers had been stabbed in the back by “political operatives.”

"This is a day I never thought I'd see in America, where 12 ordinary citizens were duped into saving the asses of self-serving politicians at the expense of a dedicated public servant,” Southwood’s statement said in part. “What cop would still want to be proactive fighting crime after this disgusting charade, and are law abiding citizens ready to pay the price?"

Mayor Emanuel's administration was rocked by the police-involved shooting. Emanuel fired his police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, in the wake of the release of dashcam video of the shooting. Emanuel issued a statement about the verdict.