Students watch as Jason Van Dyke found guilty of second-degree murder


Allie Goulding/Daily Senior Staffer

Staff and students watch the verdict in the Jason Van Dyke trial on the first floor of the Norris University Center.

The Daily Northwestern

As activists gathered in Chicago Friday afternoon and a packed courtroom awaited the arrival of the jury, students crowded around a TV in Norris University Center to watch the verdict in Jason Van Dyke’s trial.

Shortly before 2 p.m., over a live news feed from the courtroom, the jury announced they found Van Dyke guilty for second degree murder and guilty on 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each of the 16 shots that killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014.

The death of McDonald, a black teenager, set off protests that roiled Chicago after a dash cam video of the shooting was released in 2015. The video shows Van Dyke, who is white, firing his gun at McDonald, who was several feet away and walking away from the police officers.

The reaction in Norris Friday was muted: the roughly three dozen people standing around the TV nodded or quietly sighed in relief after the verdict was announced.

As the verdict for each count of aggravated battery was read out, most of the students and staff members stood rapt, watching Van Dyke’s stone faced reaction and the emotions of audience members in the courtroom.

Some kept watching, waiting for the judge to announce that he was revoking the bond for Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer who had more than 20 misconduct complaints filed against him over his time on the force.

Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer
Activists in downtown Chicago after Jason Van Dyke was found guilty for second-degree murder.

Van Dyke was found not guilty on official misconduct.

SESP sophomore Elizabeth Curtis was following in Norris as the jurors read the verdict. She said she was surprised but pleased with the sentence.

“I’m really happy,” Curtis said, “I really felt like if they had returned a not-guilty verdict I would have burst into tears immediately.”

In the Loop, office buildings and schools closed early in anticipation of protests in response to the verdict. A receptionist at the Pritzker School of Law who declined to give her name said she didn’t know of any plans to close the campus, which is just north of the Loop off of Michigan Avenue.

Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said there were no protests he knew of in the city just before 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. There are EPD officers on Howard Street, Evanston’s southern border with Chicago, as a precaution, Glew said.

Northwestern MSA said on Twitter they were making spaces available Friday night and over the weekend for students to gather.

Amy Li, Kristina Karisch, Alan Perez and Nora Shelly contributed reporting.

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