Killer cop’s freedom will haunt Biden, who made Emanuel U.S. envoy to Japan

Chicago’s killer cop Jason Van Dyke is set to be released early this month, after serving less than half of his 81-month sentence for the 2014 murder of teenager Laquan McDonald.

A spokesperson for Van Dyke’s attorney said the release would occur on Feb. 3, though records from the prisoner review board list Van Dyke’s mandatory supervised release date as Feb. 8.

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board — the body that handles parole for Illinois inmates — granted Van Dyke’s release in September 2021, records show.

Activists contrasted the early release of Van Dyke, who shot 16 times at 17-year-old McDonald and nearly evaded justice through a series of cover-ups by then-mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department, to people serving longer sentences for non-violent crimes. 

Emanuel recently became the U.S. ambassador to Japan, despite opposition from Democrats and Republicans as well as the Chicago community, causing more anger and distrust of the Biden administration. 

Emanuel’s appointment as ambassador to Japan opened yet another act in a three-decade political career that has run through two White Houses, Capitol Hill, Chicago City Hall and, now, the American embassy in Tokyo but it has linked the nation’s highest office with the most prominent symbol of bigotry, corruption and the plague of police violence.

“President Joe Biden will be considered responsible for the freedom of killer cop Jason Van Dyke—who murdered innocent 17-year-old Laquan McDonald—because he appointed Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan after he covered up the truth,” said one prominent progressive.

President Joe Biden, killer cop Jason Van Dyke, murder victim Laquan McDonald, and Ambassador Rahm Emanuel

In the full police report released more than a year after the Chicago officer shot McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014, Van Dyke claimed the teenager was armed with a knife and “raised the knife over his chest and over his shoulder, pointing the knife at Van Dyke” and that the officer believed McDonald was attempting to kill him.

Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, said in the report that McDonald got to within 12 to 15 feet of Van Dyke and “he swung the knife at the officers in an aggressive manner” before he was shot.

Dashcam video showed McDonald was moving away from the officers when he was gunned down. Van Dyke was the only officer on the scene who shot. Sixteen shots were fired at McDonald, prosecutors have said.

The release of the long-suppressed video sparked protests that resulted in Emanuel firing Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who was chosen by then-Mayor Cory Booker to run the Newark Police Department in 2006.

Van Dyke, 43, was sentenced to 81 months in prison in January 2019, though his physical location has remained, largely, unknown.

Records from the parole board said that Van Dyke was, as of September 2021, held in a downstate prison but a spokesperson for the agency indicated that he was not in custody in Illinois.

“Jason Van Dyke remains under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Corrections, but is not in our custody,” said Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lindsey Hess. “For safety and security purposes, the department does not discuss details concerning the placement of individuals who have transferred under the terms of the Interstate Corrections Compact Agreement.”

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