Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago cop whose fatal 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald reignited the fervent nationwide conversation about police shootings, was sentenced Friday to six years and nine months in prison.
The veteran police officer was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for the shooting in October 2014. The shooting and video of it prompted protests throughout Chicago and calls for Van Dyke to face serious prison time.
On Friday, he was sentenced on just the murder charge, Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan said. The aggravated battery charges carried potentially more prison time.
Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon, who had recommended that Van Dyke be sentenced to a minimum of 18 years for the aggravated battery charges, said justice was served.
“This is a significant sentence,” McMahon said. “I and this team are satisfied we achieved our goal of justice and holding Jason Van Dyke accountable for his actions.”
One of Van Dyke’s defense lawyers, Daniel Herbert, told reporters the former officer was happy with the verdict.
“He truly felt great,” Herbert said after talking with his client for a few minutes. “(But) he’s certainly not happy about going to jail. He’s not happy about missing his family, but he’s happy about the prospect of life ahead of him.”
Herbert said a decision has not been made on whether to appeal.
Given a chance to speak before the judge’s ruling, Van Dyke reiterated that he had feared for his life.
“No one wants to take someone’s life, even in defense of their own,” he said.
He said he prayed daily for McDonald’s soul.
Van Dyke’s sentencing came a day after a Cook County judge found three other Chicago police officers not guilty of falsifying police reports to protect Van Dyke, in a case that had come to be seen as a referendum on Chicago police officers’ so-called “code of silence,” and their alleged willingness to protect each other from criminal investigations.
‘Judge, jury and executioner’
The prosecution called several black men as witnesses who testified they had run-ins with Van Dyke and that he had allegedly mistreated them.
The first, Vidale Joy, said that Van Dyke pulled him over as he was leaving a gas station in August 2005. Van Dyke had his gun drawn and “put the gun to my temple,” Joy alleged. He also alleged that Van Dyke called him the n-word.
Edward Nance said in his tearful testimony that he sustained shoulder injuries from his interactions with Van Dyke and had to have surgery on both rotator cuffs. Nane also testified he now has anxiety, PTSD and ADD as a result of his run-in with Van Dyke in July 2007.
The prosecution did not bring an expert witness to testify that Nance’s injuries were caused by Van Dyke’s actions.
Laquan McDonald’s great uncle the Rev. Marvin Hunter also took the stand, reading a l