Former Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison for the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
The relatively lenient sentence for second-degree murder counts as a victory for Van Dyke, who could be out of custody in as little as three years, his attorney told reporters.
“He truly felt great,” the attorney, Daniel Herbert, said of Van Dyke. “He was not just relieved, he was happy. It’s the first time I’ve seen the guy — honestly since this whole ordeal started — where he was happy. He’s certainly not happy about going to jail. He’s certainly not happy about missing his family. But he’s happy about the prospect of life ahead of him.”
In October, Van Dyke became the first Chicago police officer in half a century to be convicted of murder in an on-duty shooting. A jury found him guilty on one count of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet that hit McDonald’s body in October 2014 as the teen walked away from police on Pulaski Road while holding a knife.
Graphic police dashboard camera footage of the shooting released more than a year later sparked weeks of chaos and political upheaval, exposing Chicago’s long-standing racial fault lines and exacerbating the already-fraught relationship between police and minority communities.
Though he had sought a sentence about three times lengthier, special prosecutor Joseph McMahon told reporters in the Leighton Criminal Court Building that justice had been served.
“I understand the sentence is not exactly what the McDonald and Hunter families wanted,” said McMahon, who requested a prison term of 18 to 20 years. “But the sentence, like the verdict, does hold the defendant accountable.”