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Judge denies Van Dyke’s bid to skip court hearings in Laquan case

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke and his attorney Steven "Randy" Rueckert at a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on May 11, 2017. | Chicago Tribune Pool Photo

A Cook County judge on Thursday recognized the need to craft a better

security plan to ensure Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s safety when he comes to the Leighton Criminal Courthouse for status hearings on the Laquan McDonald murder case.

But Judge Vincent Gaughan denied Van Dyke’s request to skip the routine procedures that his attorney claimed put him in the sights of

people who intend him harm.

Van Dyke’s father, Owen “John” Van Dyke testified Thursday about the physical and mental harassment he and his son have endured on several occasions while attending the monthly hearings over the last two years.

After Van Dyke’s initial court appearance in 2015, a shoving match ensued after a group of about 12 protesters followed Van Dyke and his father to the elder Van Dyke’s truck that was parked near the courthouse, at 26th and California.

Several members of the Fraternal Order of Police who were escorting

the Van Dykes also became engaged in the confrontation, eventually allowing the father and son to get in the car and drive off.

John Van Dyke said he was knocked to his knees in the skirmish.

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, right, and his father Owen Van Dyke arrive for a hearing in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building Thursday, March 23, 2017 in Chicago. | AP
Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, right, and his father Owen Van Dyke arrive for a hearing in front of Judge Vincent Gaughan at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building Thursday, March 23, 2017 in Chicago. | AP

When protesters began to recognize his truck, Van Dyke’s father said

he rented a car to throw off their scent.

But a person Van Dyke’s father believes was a protester figured out

the tactic and tailed the Van Dykes on to the Stevenson Expressway,

forcing them to “elude” their pursuer, John Van Dyke said as his son,

dressed in a tan suit, purple tie, white socks and black shoes, looked


“You can see it in his eyes…in his voice that he doesn’t know what

to expect at times,” John Van Dyke said of his son.

Kane County State’s attorney Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor

appointed to the case, argued that heightened security measures in

place were sufficient.

Bradley Curry, who serves as the sheriff’s department’s chief

operating officer, said neither Van Dyke nor his father had been in a physical altercation in 2017.

Eddie Avant, who heads up courthouse security for the Cook County

Sheriff’s department, testified that a security plan for the high-profile

case has been in place since May of last year and that large groups of

protesters stopped showing up after Van Dyke’s first several court


But Avant acknowledged that Van Dyke is not given an escort to and

from his car to the courtroom on every occasion.

Sometimes the escort stops at the bottom of the courthouse steps.

Other times, there is none at all, Avant said. The level of security is

based on individual risk assessments for each court date.

On Thursday four armed deputies escorted Van Dyke to court. One of

the deputies, Michael Gercone, testified that he heard someone say in

the lobby: “That’s the mother —— that shot that kid.”

Did he think he was in danger?

“No, not really,” he said, noting however that he picked up his pace

after hearing the comment.

Herbert said the problem is that officials responsible for Van Dyke’s

safety fear being “called out” for providing special treatment to Van

Dyke in such a hot button case “that’s changed the entire culture of

law enforcement.”

After hearing testimony, Gaughan ordered attorneys in the case to come together with sheriff’s department officials to craft a security plan

“that everybody will be proud of.”

Van Dyke, 39, is accused of shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16

times in October 2014.

He wasn’t charged with first degree murder in McDonald’s death until

late 2015, after a shocking video of the incident, captured on a dashboard-mounted camera, was released, prompting protests across the country.

Van Dyke had claimed that McDonald was turning as if to throw a knife

at police who were following him in the 4100 block of South Pulaski.