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Jason Van Dyke

Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, left, attends his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, for the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, Jan. 18, 2019. Van Dyke is scheduled to be released from prison on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, after he served less than half of his 81-month sentence.

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

The Rundown: Protests expected over Jason Van Dyke’s release

Hey there! It’s Thursday, and I’m child-proofing my apartment because my nephews are coming over tomorrow. I should probably hide my mint-condition comic books. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Protests expected in downtown Chicago today following Jason Van Dyke’s release from prison

A demonstration is slated to take place in Federal Plaza this afternoon after Jason Van Dyke, a former Chicago police officer convicted in the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald, was released from prison this morning.

Van Dyke served less than half of his nearly seven-year sentence after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each bullet he fired at the 17-year-old.

The Justice Department is under public pressure to file federal civil rights charges against Van Dyke. Today, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said in a statement that the time Van Dyke served did “not meet the crime.”

It is unclear where Van Dyke was released. [Chicago Sun-Times]

WBEZ talked to McDonald’s family about Van Dyke’s early release in a new episode of 16 Shots, a podcast series that examines the police shooting and the troubled relationship between African Americans and the Chicago Police Department. [WBEZ]

2. The Chicago Police Department reassigned more than 300 officers in hopes of boosting arrests

Facing a hiring slowdown and a wave of retirements, the Chicago Police Department is reshuffling 320 officers to boost arrests amid a surge in violence, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The move comes as Superintendent David Brown’s leadership of the department is increasingly being questioned by police supervisors, and this latest reshuffling is further raising alarms.

“There’s no set plan,” a high-level police source told the Sun-Times. “Everything just keeps changing.”

The newspaper reports most of the officers being reassigned come from tactical units. That could have an adverse effect, police sources told the newspaper, because those units respond to shootings and gang activity.

But a spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the tactical officers being reassigned were “seriously underperforming.” [Sun-Times]

3. Russia has crafted a plan to fabricate a pretext for invading Ukraine, U.S. officials claim

The Biden administration says it has exposed a Russian plot to stage an attack by the Ukrainian military that could involve civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine and possibly in Russia, reports The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials.

The alleged plot involves broadcasting fake videos of casualties in an effort to create public outrage against the Ukrainian government, the Post reports. A U.S. official said it’s unclear if the casualties would be real or also staged.

By going public, the Biden administration hopes to thwart the alleged Russian plot before it happens. It’s a similar tactic the U.S. and its allies have used in hopes to stop a previously disclosed plan from Russia to place saboteurs inside Ukraine. [WaPo]

4. The leader of ISIS was killed during a U.S. raid in Syria, Biden announces

President Joe Biden said today that ISIS leader Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi blew himself and members of his family up during a risky overnight raid in northern Syria.

“Thanks to the bravery of our troops this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

A senior administration official told NPR that al-Qurayshi “detonated a blast, a significant blast killing himself and several others, including his wife and children. This is the same terrorist tactic of his predecessor,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the official said, “taking his own life and his own family rather than face justice or stand and fight on his own.”

“Both these terrorist leaders murdered their own families,” the official said.

The Syria Civil Defence, a rescue organization known as the White Helmets, told NPR that 13 civilians died in bombings and clashes, including six children. [NPR]

5. A $633 million cancer hospital is planned for Chicago’s South Side

UChicago Medicine, a prominent South Side health system, wants to build an estimated $633 million hospital dedicated to cancer care on its Hyde Park campus.

Health system officials say the new center would create a more seamless experience for patients who currently have to trek from building to building for everything from doctor visits to chemotherapy to scans.

“We need more space,” said Dr. Kunle Odunsi, director of the health system’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It’s very clear to us. In fact, the COVID pandemic really revealed that to us more than anything else, that we need more capacity to be able to care for our cancer and non-cancer patients.” [WBEZ]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics will take place tomorrow, putting China and allegations of human rights violations in the spotlight. [NPR]
  • Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz faces criticism after a heated response to a reporter’s question regarding Kyle Beach’s sexual assault allegation, saying, in part, “I don’t think it’s any of your business.” [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey will not seek reelection in May. [WBEZ]
  • WBEZ’s Art of Power is back. This week’s episode features Olympic champion Allyson Felix. [WBEZ]

Oh, and one more thing …

Chicago is finally getting its first Alamo Drafthouse.

The movie theater chain is slated to open a six-screen cinema in the Wrigleyville neighborhood sometime this fall, the company announced today. The theater will be located across the street from Wrigley Field.

Alamo Drafthouse, which has nearly 40 locations, features a mix of blockbusters, documentaries, indies and foreign language films, along with special events. It’s also known for offering in-theater dining.

The Chicago theater is part of a major expansion that includes six other cinemas nationwide.

As Variety reports, U.S. movie theaters are hoping to recover from the pandemic, which forced Alamo Drafthouse to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy early last year and close underperforming theaters. [Variety]

Tell me something good ...

So I’m babysitting the nephews tomorrow, and I’d like to know what fun activities you like to do with young kids.

Jahn writes:

“Scavenger hunt! And best if they have to run up and down the stairs to get the items and bring them back. They’ll be exhausted, love the competition and laugh the whole time.”

And Adrien writes:

“If you enjoy tabletop role-playing and have a table full of kids, I highly recommend playing No Thank You, Evil! The game allows kids to steer the story with their active imaginations, while also learning the basic mechanics of role-playing. It gets pretty hilarious! The box says ages 5 to infinity.”

Feel free to email me at or tweet me at @whuntah, and your responses might be shared here this week.

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