Tiffany Van Dyke, the wife of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke who was convicted of murdering teenager Laquan McDonald, said her husband was beaten in prison after he was unexpectedly transferred to a Connecticut facility.
Jason Van Dyke was found guilty in October of 2018 for second-degree murder and multiple counts of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to nearly seven years behind bars but may be released earlier. Van Dyke was convicted for shooting McDonald, who was black, 16 times on October 20, 2014.
McDonald was walking in the street and had a small knife. Van Dyke said that McDonald had made a threatening move toward police, but the dashcam video released by the city contradicted Van Dyke’s account. The video appeared to show McDonald walking away from officers when he was shot.
After the sentencing, Van Dyke was being detained in Illinois, away from other inmates. But he was moved to a federal prison in Connecticut on February 5. Within hours of the transfer, he was beaten by other inmates.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Tiffany Van Dyke: ‘This is a Gigantic Race Issue; They Put My Husband in a Setting to Be Harmed Because He Was a White Man Who Harmed a Black Gentleman in the Line of Duty’
Jason Van Dyke was attacked on February 5, but his wife Tiffany said she had not been made aware of that fact until February 13. Tiffany Van Dyke spoke out in a news conference today to address the incident. She said that she has not been allowed to see or speak with her husband since he was sentenced to prison on January 18.
Tiffany added, “Everybody said it from day one. This is a race issue. This is a gigantic race issue. They put my husband in a setting to be harmed because it’s a fact that he was a white man who harmed a black gentleman in the line of duty. My family feared for him every single day.”
She explained that Jason is not permitted phone calls or to see his family. Tiffany confirmed that Jason had originally been put in with the general population of the prison and that she does not feel assured that he is now safe.
Tiffany has said in previous interviews that she stands behind her husband “for better or worse.” And before the trial even began, Tiffany predicted that Jason would be attacked in prison.
2. Tiffany Van Dyke Said The Family Had Not Been Told That Jason Was Moved to Connecticut
Tiffany Van Dyke first confirmed that Jason had been beaten in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. She said that her husband wishes to serve his sentence and “does not want any trouble.” She explained that the family is “petrified and in fear for Jason’s life.”
The newspaper also cited a family member who said that no one had been informed ahead of time that Jason was being moved from Illinois to Connecticut, including his defense attorneys. Tiffany confirmed that in a news conference on February 14.USA Today also reported that a prison employee anonymously contacted his lawyer this week to provide details about what had happened.
It appeared that Jason was attacked by other inmates in his cell within about four hours of arriving at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connection, on February 5. He suffered injuries to his face but nothing life-threatening. Tiffany Van Dyke said in her statement that her husband “never should have been in the general population.”
Tiffany added in the news conference that it has not been explained to her why Jason was moved into a federal prison, as opposed to remaining in an Illinois state prison. Tiffany said that she was “demanding answers” because her husband was charged in Illinois, not on federal charges.
A search of the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirms that Jason Van Dyke remains in custody at the facility in Connecticut.
3. Tiffany Van Dyke: My Husband is Not a Racist
Tiffany Van Dyke kept a relatively low profile in the months leading up to her husband’s trial. But she decided to speak out right before the trial got underway in September of 2018. She described Jason to Fox32 in Chicago as a “very quiet, softspoken, and humble human being.”
She denied that the shooting of Laquan McDonald had anything to do with race. Tiffany said that Jason “did not know what he was walking into” the night he shot and killed the teenager. She explained that her family is multiracial and that there was no way the shooting had been racially motivated. She added that Jason had a close relationship with her brother-in-law, who is African-American.
In that interview, Tiffany said that Jason had considered taking his own life. She urged him not to do that, telling him, “You have me. You have your daughters.”
4. Tiffany & Jason Van Dyke Have Two Teenager Daughters; Tiffany Said the Girls Were Bullied at School
Tiffany and Jason Van Dyke have two daughters. They were 12 and 16 at the time of the trial.
Tiffany spoke on the talk show “Windy City Live” the day before Jason’s trial began in September of 2018. She became very emotional and cried as she talked about how her children would be separated from their father. (At the time, he was facing the possibility of several decades in prison).
Tiffany explained that her daughters faced bullying at school. “My oldest..e called me halfway through the day, crying, and I said, ‘what is the matter?’ She said somebody wrote 16 shots on her desk. My 12-year-old, innocent 12-year-old, sat in her classroom and another student called her father a murderer to her face.”
In that interview, Tiffany expressed concern about her husband’s safety in prison. She calmly stated, “They’ll kill him. Somebody will kill him. I will lose my husband. Either way, I lose my husband.”
5. Tiffany Gave Emotional Testimony at the Sentencing Hearing & Expressed Concern That Jason Would be Attacked in Prison
Tiffany Van Dyke gave an emotional plea at Jason’s sentencing hearing in January of 2019. She tearfully told the court, “My biggest fear is that somebody will kill my husband. For something he did as a police officer. Something he was trained to do. There was no malice. No hatred on that night. It was simply a man doing his job. My other fear is that I’ll never see him again. My children will never see him again.”
Tiffany’s daughters also wrote letters pleading the judge to show leniency. Prosecutors had asked for a 96-year prison sentence. He faced 6 years for each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery, in addition to the second-degree murder charge.
Ultimately, the judge decided to sentence Jason Van Dyke for the murder charge and not the aggravated battery, which was how the sentence ended up at less than seven years. Prosecutors are appealing, arguing that he should have received a longer sentence.