CHICAGO – Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, already found guilty of the 2014 murder of teenager Laquan McDonald, was sentenced Friday to 81 months in prison—close to seven years’ incarceration, reported FOX News.
Van Dyke was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.
The dashcam footage of him shooting McDonald stoked outrage, polarized Chicago and garnered national attention over how to police minority communities.
Van Dyke said Friday he prayed “daily for the soul of Laquan McDonald.”
“I will have to live with this the rest of my life … taking it to my grave,” he said, adding: “I was a police officer trying to make dangerous decisions. No one wants to take a life.”
Several black motorists testified Friday that Van Dyke used racial slurs and excessive force during traffic stops in the years before the 2014 shooting.
Allegations of racial bias were not a focus at Van Dyke’s trial last year, but prosecutors highlighted the accusations in a bid to persuade the judge that Van Dyke deserved a stiffer sentence.
A relative of Laquan McDonald read a statement from the slain teen’s perspective, saying Van Dyke killed him without provocation, while the Rev. Marvin Hunter read a letter written in the voice of his grandnephew. It said McDonald had a tough childhood but was turning his life around when Van Dyke shot him on a South Side street.
Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, told the court her “life has been a nightmare” and that she can’t sleep without her husband by her side.
“He’s a great father and a wonderful husband,” she said. “He was also a dedicated officer to the Chicago Police Department. They have lost a great officer.”
Van Dyke’s father, Owen, pleaded with the court for a reduced sentence. “Jason’s not the person described by prosecutors,” he said, describing several of his son’s achievements through his childhood and school years.
On Thursday, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson acquitted three Chicago police officers who were charged with trying to cover up McDonald’s shooting.
Stephenson said there was no evidence that former Detective David March, former Officer Joseph Walsh, and Officer Thomas Gaffney, who were previously charged with conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice, attempted to hide evidence related to McDonald’s death. She went so far as to say that the evidence presented in their trial even “shows just the opposite.”