(1/18/19) More than four years after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald died in a barrage of bullets, former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke will be sentenced Friday for the fatal shooting.
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. He was the first Chicago police officer to be charged with first-degree murder since 1980.
Van Dyke faces between four and 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction and would be eligible for probation, according to prosecutors. The aggravated battery convictions carry a potential sentence of between six and 30 years with no probation.
Defense attorney Dan Herbert has asked that he get probation or receive no more than the minimum six-year sentence for aggravated battery, according to CNN affiliate WLS.
His attorneys submitted dozens of letters from police officers, longtime friends of Van Dyke and his family asking the judge for leniency.
“I have had nightmares and trouble sleeping because my dad might have to go away for a long time,” Van Dyke’s 12-year-old daughter wrote in her letter, according to the affiliate.“Bring my dad home. Please.”
Protests and reforms
Crowds of outraged protesters chanted and marched on the streets of Chicago after the 2014 killing, leading to reforms and a national conversation about police use of deadly force.
Video of the shooting led to protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of the mayor and, eventually, the ouster of the police superintendent.
The veteran officer’s sentencing will be the latest in a series of developments linked to McDonald’s killing.
On Thursday, a judge found three other Chicago police officers — former detective David March, former officer Joseph Walsh and officer Thomas Gaffney — not guilty of falsifying police reports to protect Van Dyke.
Cook County Associate Judge Domenica Stephenson said Thursday the state had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers engaged in a conspiracy to prevent a criminal investigation, and acquitted the officers of all charges.
The case had come to represent a referendum on Chicago police officers’ so-called “code of silence,” and their alleged willingness to protect each other.
16 shots in 15 seconds
The shooting was captured on a grainy police dashcam video.
Several police officers were responding to a call about a man breaking into trucks in a parking lot on Chicago’s South Side.
In the video, McDonald is initially seen running, then walking in the middle of the street toward several police cars with flashing lights. McDonald later veers away from two police officers, who have their guns drawn, and within seconds he appears to spin around and fall. He was holding a knife as he walked away from multiple police officers who were following him.
There were 16 shots fired over 15 seconds, all by Van Dyke. During the trial, prosecutors said the veteran officer fired unnecessarily within six seconds after arriving at the scene. Van Dyke argued he fired in self-defense after McDonald lunged at him with a knife.
But the dashcam video — which a judge ordered the city to release 13 months after the shooting — showed McDonald walking away from police, rather than charging at them.
Prosecutor Joseph McMahon has called his conviction a ” gratifying” verdict.
“This is a victory for America,” the Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great uncle, told reporters after the verdict last year.
Members of the jury later told reporters that Van Dyke’s testimony was not credible and seemed rehearsed.