Jason Van Dyke, former Chicago official, sentenced to 6 years and 9 months for the murder of Laquan McDonald



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By Erik Ortiz and Doha Madani

The former Chicago police officer convicted of the murder of a black teenager who was shot 16 times while driving away was sentenced Friday to 6 years, 9 months.

Jason Van Dyke's punishment was much less than the 18-year minimum sought by prosecutors, although state sentencing guidelines allowed for up to 96 years or more, the equivalent of six years consecutively completed for each shot.

You will also have to meet a mandatory supervised exemption two years after your prison sentence.

A jury in October found Van Dyke, 40, guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated badault in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke, dressed in an orange prison uniform, looked grim when Judge Vincent Gaughan announced his decision at the end of a more than eight-hour hearing that began Friday morning.

The former officer addressed the court shortly before his sentence was announced, saying about the shooting: "Nobody wants to take the life of anyone, not even in their own defense."

"I have prayed daily for the soul of Laquan McDonald and it was due to my actions that the McDonald family has suffered pain due to the loss of a family member," he said.

"As a God-fearing man and father, I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, taking it to my grave," he said.

On the night of the shooting in October 2014, Van Dyke and other officers responded to reports that McDonald was carrying a knife and was getting into cars on the southwest side of the city. Van Dyke at his trial testified that he feared for his life when he encountered the teenager, who was holding a folded knife.

But the dashcam images showed that Van Dyke was approaching McDonald, while the teenager was moving away from the officers in the middle of the street.

The death of McDonald caused racial tensions, a federal investigation and a political agitation in the city, and the video was published after intense public pressure and by the police accountability activists.

The last time a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder for a murder in service was more than 50 years ago.

Van Dyke's defense team applied for parole for the 13-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, and submitted more than 100 letters from relatives, friends and co-workers who noted he had no criminal record and deserved leniency.

At the sentencing hearing, Reverend Martin Hunter, McDonald's great-uncle, spoke on behalf of the family and read a letter written as if McDonald had written it.

"Please think of me and my life when I condemn this person to prison," Hunter read. "Why should this person be free, when I am dead forever?"

The prosecution also highlighted the complaints against Van Dyke for alleged use of excessive force and presented the testimony of minorities who claimed to have abused their civil rights during the arrests.

Edward Nance, who won a $ 350,000 civil suit after being arrested by Van Dyke and his partner during a transit stop in 2007, cried in the stands as he explained how he was mistreated and remains "in constant pain, every day" for the incident.

Despite about 20 complaints against him, Van Dyke was never disciplined during his career.

His sentence came a day after three Chicago police officers were declared innocent of conspiring to protect him after the shooting, a case that drew attention to a "code of silence" that has plagued the department for a long time.

Erik Ortiz

Erik Ortiz is an editor for NBC News that focuses on racial injustice and social inequality.

Doha Madani

Doha Madani is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.


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