Former Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, could end up serving just over three years in prison for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months Friday (Jan. 18), and according to the Chicago Tribune , the former officer is eligible to receive credit for good behavior.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan had to decide between sentencing Van Dyke for second-degree murder or aggravated battery, the latter of which carried a mandatory minimum of six years in prison, the Tribune reports. Gaughan decided that it made more sense to sentence Van Dyke for murder, which makes him eligible for early release.
McDonald was shot to death in 2014. At the time, authorities claimed that the teen was behaving erratically while carrying a small knife. The police department waited 13 months to release video of the shooting. In the footage, McDonald is seen walking away from the cops as Van Dyke opens fire, shooting him 16 times. Van Dyke, a 14-year veteran of the CPD, was arrested and quickly released on bond the day that the video was made public. He was found guilty of second-degree murder and more than a dozen charges of aggravated battery last October.
Darren O’Brien, Van Dyke’s lawyer, pushed for sentencing “leniency,” due in part to his client’s clean criminal record. Depicting O’Brien as the victim, Van Dyke stated that his client feared for his life when he killed McDonald.
“He didn’t start the confrontation,” O’Brien said. “He reacted to what Mr. McDonald did..Everything that happened was set in motion by Mr. McDonald.”
Gaughan called the court case a tragedy for families from both parties. “It’s just so senseless that these acts occur because you can see the pain on both sides. This is a tragedy for both sides.”
Van Dyke’s sentence came a day after a Cook County judge acquitted three CPD officers charged with covering up the shooting.