The three officers accused of covering up the death of Laquan McDonald were found not guilty this week.
According to Blavity, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson claimed the prosecution did not have a strong enough case for a conviction. A day later, the former officer who pulled the trigger, Jason Van Dyke, was sentenced to six years and nine months for fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
In 2014, police were called to a parking lot after reports were made of a person breaking into vehicles and stealing radios. Van Dyke arrived at the Chicago lot and, after mere seconds, opened fire on the teen, hitting him a total of 16 times. In the dashcam video, McDonald is seen moving away from the former officer before he’s fired upon.
Following the shooting, officer Thomas Gaffney and former officer Joseph Walsh checked a box indicating Van Dyke was in serious danger. Former Detective David March also supported this claim, writing in a report that McDonald committed aggravated assault against the officers, forcing Van Dyke to open fire. March was not present during the shooting.
While March, Gaffney and Walsh were found not guilty, Van Dyke was sentenced to just under seven years. Under Illinois state law, which requires he serve at least half his term, he could be out of prison in around three years. Prosecutors initially asked Judge Vincent Gaughan for a sentence of 18 to 20 years. The defense team asked for probation.
The defense team gave the court multiple letters asking Gaughan to show mercy. Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, even claimed she feared for her husband’s life in prison.
“My biggest fear is that somebody would kill my husband for something he did as a police officer, something he was trained to do," she said of the shooting that left McDonald dead after only six seconds. "There was no malice, no hatred on that night. He was simply doing his job."
Prosecutors challenged the defense by providing numerous accounts of the excessive force Van Dyke implored while on the job. A family impact statement was also read by Rev. Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s uncle.
“I am a real victim of murder and that can never be changed,” Hunter read. "Jason Van Dyke, with his cold callousness and disregard for the life of a young Black man, without me provoking him, robbed us."
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