Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who is the midst of a nearly seven-year prison sentence for the murder of a black teen, was assaulted by fellow inmates soon after being transferred to a prison in Connecticut earlier this month, the ex-cop’s attorney tells USA TODAY.
Van Dyke, who was convicted in October for second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald, was beaten soon after being transferred to a new prison, says Jennifer Blagg, a defense attorney assisting Van Dyke on his appeal. The ex-cop was sentenced last month to an 81-month sentence for the state charges.
Federal records show he is being held at a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut.
Blagg declined to detail his injuries. A source close to the Van Dyke family who was not authorized to comment to the media told USA TODAY that Van Dyke suffered facial injuries in the Feb. 5 attack.
Van Dyke had been held at a jail in western Illinois as he awaited sentencing, because authorities in Chicago feared they could not assure his safety in the Cook County Jail. Since his sentencing, Blagg said that Van Dyke had been held in at least one other facility before he was moved to Danbury.
“He was in another facility where he felt safe and then he was moved (to Connecticut),” Blagg said.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the incident and why Van Dyke was placed in federal custody.
The injuries were not life-threatening but nonetheless jarring to Van Dyke and his family, who have expressed concern that prison officials won’t be able to keep him safe.
“We are all petrified and in fear for Jason’s life,” Tiffany Van Dyke told the Sun-Times. “It is the prison’s job to keep him safe, and they’re not doing their job. I want this rectified immediately. He was never supposed to be in the general population.”
Van Dyke’s defense team has been in contact with the Illinois Department of Correction to discuss his safety in the aftermath of the incident, Blagg said.
“Jason runs into problems because of what he represents and there are inmates who resent that and would be proud to say they are the guy that beat him up or hurt him,” Blagg told USA TODAY. “We’re obviously concerned because what he’s come to symbolize.”
Van Dyke shot McDonald in an encounter that began after police were called to a parking lot on the Southwest Side of Chicago on the evening of Oct. 20, 2014. Police received reports of a person breaking into trucks and stealing radios.
Officers arrived to find the 17-year-old McDonald walking erratically in the street with a small knife.
Van Dyke pulled up to the scene, got out of his squad car and within seconds opened fire. He shot the teen 16 times. The shooting was captured on police dashcam video, which appears to show McDonald moving away from Van Dyke when he opened fire.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced this week that he had petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to order a resentencing of Van Dyke, arguing the trial judge did not follow state laws in the sentencing process. Raoul argues Van Dyke should face a sentence of no less than 18 years in prison.
Van Dyke’s defense team also announced this week that they would appeal the former officer’s conviction.
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