Chicago police officer convicted of killing Laquan McDonald moved from Chicago jail for safety reasons

Chicago Police Laquan McDonald
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, wearing sunglasses, is escorted out of the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, after testifying in his first degree murder trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

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The Cook County jail officials where former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was placed after his conviction last week in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, were so fearful of his safety that he has now been moved to a neighboring county.

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Van Dyke was found guilty in the 2014 killing of McDonald, a case that caught national headlines and launched protests in the city for the last four years. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

Van Dyke was moved from the jail and transported to the Rock Island County Jail, about three hours west of Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

His status as a former cop and the high-profile nature of the case makes him an “a very unusual detainee,” said said Cara Smith, director of policy for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

However, Van Dyke will return to the jail Oct. 31, the date of his next hearing.He is reportedly being kept in protective custody in a single cell, away from other prisoners, Smith said.

“The way he was treated was the same as any other high-profile detainee,” Smith said. “He had no special privileges.”

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A jury found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery. Van Dyke was found not guilty of official misconduct. This comes after Van Dyke took to the stand in his own defense, giving a version of the fateful encounter that did not correlate with the video evidence prosecutors presented.

Even before the trial started, the case had made an impact on law enforcement in the city. Chicago’s police superintendent and the county’s top prosecutor both lost their jobs — one fired by the mayor and the other ousted by voters. It also led to a U.S. Justice Department investigation that found a “pervasive cover-up culture” and prompted plans for far-reaching police reforms.

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