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Jason Van Dyke receiving death threats, lawyer says

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has been receiving death threats since he was charged with murdering 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, his attorney, Daniel Herbert, said Friday.

“My client is doing OK but to be honest, he is having a very difficult time. It’s impacted him quiet a bit,” Herbert said after Van Dyke appeared before Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan for a brief hearing.

“He’s [Van Dyke] received death threats. His family has received death threats . . . He’s very concerned about his wife and his children and his own well being.”

Herbert said 37-year-old Van Dyke, who is not receiving formal protection, is “fearful” every time he goes out and has been doing “odd jobs” to make ends meet.

Jason Van Dyke's attorney, Daniel Herbert, speaks to the press after a brief hearing Friday / Rummana Hussain

Jason Van Dyke’s attorney, Daniel Herbert, speaks to the media after a brief hearing Friday / Rummana Hussain

Meanwhile, McDonald’s great-uncle and other activists stressed that Van Dyke — a white Chicago Police officer accused of killing a black teen — could easily be cleared of his crimes if he is tried in Cook County.

“We feel like the entire Cook County criminal justice system needs to be overhauled and investigated,” Marvin Hunter said.

Laquan McDonald's great uncle Marvin Hunter speaks to the press at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse / Rummana Hussain

Laquan McDonald’s great uncle Marvin Hunter speaks to the press at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse / Rummana Hussain

Earlier Friday, two other lawyers, William Fahy and Steven “Randy” Rueckert, told Gaughan they were joining Van Dyke’s defense team.

Gaughan, the prosecutors and the defense team then went in the judge’s chamber for 15 minutes before they came out to “formally discuss the case management.”

Prosecutors told the judge they turned over to the defense some materials from the Independent Police Review Authority investigation of the shooting.

Van Dyke will be back in court on March 23.

Gaughan also said he will have an organizational meeting with the lawyers and the media on March 10.

Van Dyke, who is free on bond, is accused of fatally shooting McDonald 16 times in October 2014.

The jarring dashcam video of the slaying fueled protests across the country and criticism of how city leaders handled the investigation and the release of the video.

After the hearing on Friday, Herbert, like Hunter, expressed concern about holding his client’s trial at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

He specifically targeted Mayor Rahm Emanuel for calling his client’s actions “heinous” without even watching the video.

“When the mayor of this city in which the pool of jurors that we would drawn from has taken such an adamant stance, it makes it extremely difficult for us to get a juror in here that is not predisposed to a finding of guilty,” Herbert said.

Herbert said he may argue for a change of venue but only after he has received all evidence surrounding the case.

Herbert said he was upset over reports that said Van Dyke had tampered with the audio of the squad car.

The defense attorney stressed that the last thing police officers want to do is “kill anybody” when they go out on the streets.

“When you start criminalizing every decision of a police officer, it’s irresponsible. It’s very dangerous,” Herbert said.

A few protesters gathered at the courthouse Friday, reiterating how the police has brutalized the African-American community for decades.

One man held a sign that read: “Stop police terror. Which side are you on? Justice for Laquan McDonald.”