Former police officer Jason Van Dyke suffered “facial and head injuries” in a beating at the prison where he’s serving six years for killing a black teenager, one of his attorneys said Thursday.
Attorney Tammy Wendt told reporters at a news conference that the attack happened one week ago in Van Dyke’s cell at a federal prison in Connecticut, where he had been transferred two days earlier. Van Dyke required medical attention.
Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, was also at the news conference. She said she hasn’t spoken to her husband since he was sentenced on January 18, and that she wants him to be safe so that he can complete his prison term and return to his family.
“We have been fearful for his life and his safety from day one,” Tiffany Van Dyke said.
Wendt said she received word of the attack in a phone call from the Connecticut prison. She said her firm learned of his transfer from a state prison in Illinois after it occurred.
Van Dyke was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. Van Dyke fired 16 shots in about 15 seconds. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison on the murder charge.
Prosecutors are challenging his sentence
Word of the incident comes days after Illinois prosecutors said they are challenging Van Dyke’s sentence.
The special prosecutor who tried the case and the state’s attorney general filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court, asking the court to vacate his second-degree murder sentence, authorities said. The petition asked to instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The aggravated battery charges carried potentially more prison time. Each of the 16 counts would have carried a minimum sentence of six years in prison. When combined, he could have faced up to 96 years in prison, a stiff penalty many protesters and activists were hoping for.
Authorities said they plan to work with the court to review the legality of the sentence.
Van Dyke had argued he fired in self-defense after he said McDonald lunged at him with a knife. But a Chicago police dashcam video showed McDonald walking away from police, rather than charging at them.
The release of the video led to protests and a national conversation about police use of deadly force. Van Dyke has been in custody since his conviction in October.