Student Opinions on the Van Dyke Trial

Emily Nowak, Sophomore Writer

“We the jury find the defendant Jason Van Dyke guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm ______ shot,” the speaker announced repeatedly. 16 times to be exact. Whether one was in the courtroom, at work, at school, or at home, all of Chicago’s ears were tuned into the speaker spilling the charges. All were at the edge of their seats. Anxiety rolled through the individual, as the long wait for the verdict came to a close. This all began on one night in 2014 when Van Dyke fired 16 shots at seventeen year old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke, discovered guilty in second degree murder as well as aggravated battery sixteen counts, lost his whole life in front of eyes due to the consequences of his shots. With the trial at a close, Chicagoans faced diverse reactions to the closing verdict and its results. Ignatius students were asked their opinions of the trial and its conclusions. The reactions were the following:

  • “I think that the verdict was definitely deserved. 1 shot was too many, but 16?! That’s despicable and completely malicious. I think the verdict is an important step in the right direction against structural racism that plagues our society.”
  • “It is a shame to see a family lose their loving father to a trial that tore the city apart. Ultimately, his family will face the effect of living without a father figure from now on with him locked behind bars”
  • “I believe he was guilty and I agree with it. I don’t understand how he wasn’t found guilty of official misconduct but I do not know the specifics of the law. It’s a step in the right direction but we still need to pay attention and focus on police brutality, especially in Chicago.”
  • “It is disgraceful that an honorable man who has spent his life serving his community in law enforcement is rewarded by being thrown in state prison and ripped away from his wife and young children. Friday was a sad day for justice and for the city of Chicago.”
  • “I feel like he deserved his sentencing though like it was a reasonable one. When the jury read each gun shot as guilty it made me upset because it made me really think about this young man’s life being robbed from him due to racism in our world.”
  • “Overall, the city faced this trial together uniting us. However, the city lost a loyal police officer to prison.”
  • “It’s fascinating to be a part of a historical court case. I was pleased to see that many Chicagoans saw the verdict as fair. It was a relief that there were no disruptive protests.”
  • “Discussions of the trial felt like a flashback. I remember learning about the Van Dyke situation in my eighth grade social studies class. Two years later, I am proud to see that there is a resolution to this issue. I am hoping that the trial verdict will continue to heal the city and help our citizens move forward.”
  • “Well, I believe that he should have gotten first degree murder because of the atrocity of his crime, but second degree murder with sixteen counts of aggravated battery is a step in the right direction. He’ll most likely go to jail for the rest of his life.”
  • “The first shot he took was necessary because of McDonald approaching him with a knife, but the next fifteen were uncalled for.”
  • “I think it is easy to demonize either side and find violence and hate in the opinions and speech of the two parties, however it is crucial that we can see the good in both sides. It was ultimately someone from inside the Chicago police department who released the tape  and the protests were ultimately seeking to fight for justice in their community.”
  • “I believe that the jury’s verdict was just and fair given the information that I know and the circumstances of the shooting.”
  • “I feel as if the verdict justified the means of what Van Dyke did. He needs to realize there are consequences for actions that are committed no matter what the circumstances are for the choices and what provoked the choices. Therefore, there must be an acceptance amongst Chicago that actions have an effect on the whole community not just one individual.”


One could say it was only a verdict. However, for the city, it was much more significant. The sentencing of Van Dyke was one that altered the lives of many in the Chicagoland forever. Ultimately, the verdict offered Laquan McDonald justice, however the justice will never be able to be truly seen through his own eyes. In addition, his family had sustained closure knowing the man who destroyed the future of Laquan McDonald endured the punishment he deserved. But even with these measures taken, nothing can replaced the young man lost in Chicago to sixteen shots.