An Ashburn neighborhood man arrested at the Leighton Criminal Court Building on Thursday has been charged with two misdemeanors after posting a threat on Facebook to “shoot up” the courthouse during Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder trial for the shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Matthew Ross, 32, faces charges of electronic harassment and disorderly conduct, according to Chicago police. He was processed and released from custody on an I-bond and is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 8.
Ross told the Chicago Sun-Times on Saturday that he regrets posting the messages to social media and didn’t expect them to reach an audience outside of his own network.
The messages, which were deleted by Facebook, were saved by others and spread around social media during the Van Dyke’s trial, before the officer was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm on Friday.
Police said Ross posted a message to Facebook that said “Just shoot up the whole court. Free your soul,” among other threatening messages.
“It was posted in the heat of the moment just going back and forth with that community,” Ross said of his online sparring with supporters of Van Dyke. “They’ve been posting threats to activists as well. I’ve gotten death threats.”
Due to the posts, Ross was “flagged” by police and taken into custody Thursday morning when he tried to enter the courthouse at 26th Street and California Avenue to sign up as a spectator at Van Dyke’s trial, police said. He was not armed and had previously attended hearings during the trial.
Ross said he isn’t a violent person and said the posts were “in bad taste.” A court records search showed Ross has no publishable criminal background in Cook County.
“Unfortunately, once you put it on social media you can’t take it back,” he said.
“We all need to get to a place where we show each other love and grace,” Ross said of his interactions with supporters of Van Dyke on social media.
During Thursday’s court proceedings, Van Dyke was admonished by Judge Vincent Gaughan when he arrived minutes late to the courtroom after being summoned to weigh in on a question from the jury. Van Dyke said he left the courthouse after he learned his daughter had been threatened at school. Gaughan threatened to revoke his bail, but ultimately did not.
Van Dyke was found guilty by a jury Friday afternoon and his bail was revoked upon his conviction. He will be held in custody at the Cook County Jail ahead of a post-trial hearing at the end of the month and his upcoming sentencing hearing.