Jason Van Dyke sentenced to 6 years, 9 months in Laquan McDonald murder

CHICAGO — Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke has been sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for the 2014 murder of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke, 40, will likely serve slightly more than three years. His sentence is based on his second-degree murder conviction, which only requires 50 percent of a sentence to be served.  He will receive credit for time served awaiting sentencing.

A Cook County jury in October found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the Oct. 20, 2014, slaying. McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times.

The murder charge carried a possible sentence of four to 20 years in prison; probation without prison time was also an option. Each count of aggravated battery carried a sentence of six to 30 years.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on Friday said he would only consider the second-degree murder conviction while making his decision.

"[Sentencing someone] is not pleasant, and this is not easy," the longtime judge said. "I assume that 100 percent of everybody is going to be disappointed."

Activists slammed the ruling Friday.

William Calloway, who was instrumental in getting dashcam footage of the fatal 2014 shooting released, said he was devastated by the sentence — calling Van Dyke racist and insisting the former officer was "not the victim" in this case.

Earlier Friday, 10 relatives and fellow officers testified on Van Dyke's behalf, pleading for a lenient sentence.

Wife Tiffany Van Dyke said her husband had already "paid the ultimate price. I just beg for the least amount of time, if not probation, for my husband."

Crying on the witness stand, Tiffany Van Dyke said, her "life has been a nightmare" since her husband was charged. Her children are bullied, she said; she lost a job.

"My biggest fear is that somebody would kill my husband [in prison] for something he did as a police officer, something he was trained to do," Tiffany Van Dyke said. "There was no malice, no hatred on that night. It was simply a man doing his job."

Prosecutors on Friday called six witnesses to speak on McDonald's behalf: his great-uncle, the Rev. Marvin Hunter; and five men who said Van Dyke was violent during traffic stops.

Hunter read for the court a letter he wrote from McDonald's point of view. It alleges Van Dyke became "judge, jury and executioner" when he fatally shot McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014, after someone called 911 to report the teen inside a locked truck yard near 41st Street and Pulaski Road. McDonald had a 3-inch knife and was high on PCP.

"I'm a real victim of murder," the letter read, "and that can't ever be changed. Please think about me and about my life."

State witness Edward Nance said Van Dyke was so violent during a 2007 traffic stop that Nance suffered severe shoulder injuries and required surgeries.

Nance broke down crying on the stand at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, 2650 S. California Ave: "It hurt really bad. I couldn't move my shoulders. I couldn't move nothing."

Nance previously sued Van Dyke for tearing his shoulder and was awarded $350,000 by a jury.

Among defense witnesses was Van Dyke's 17-year-old daughter Kaylee. Gaughan banned audio or video recording since she's a minor. The teen cried in court while calling her dad her hero.

Dean Angelo, who headed the Chicago police union from 2014 to 2017, said McDonald's murder could've prevented if the teen followed police orders the night he was killed: "If a knife was dropped, we're not here."

"[Van Dyke] is not the monster people made him out to be in the media and in political circles," Angelo said. "He's a big, gentle kid. ... He's a hard worker. He's dedicated. He's a good guy. He's religious. He's quite loyal."

Van Dyke was the first Chicago police officer in 50 years to be charged with murder for an on-duty incident. He shot McDonald 16 times after a truck driver called 911 to report McDonald in a locked truck lot near 41st Street and Pulaski Road. The 17-year-old was armed with a 3-inch knife and high on PCP.

Video of the shooting, which was released via court order in November 2015, sparked massive protests and prompted federal and local investigations.

Defense attorneys Friday sought probation. Special prosecutor Joe McMahon during his closing arguments requested a sentence of 18 to 20 years.

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